Red Ned Tudor Mysteries

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Terrible Tudors

Welcome dear visitor to Red Ned’s Tudor Mysteries Blog
If you have any interest in our most famous and infamous royal dynasty, this is the place to visit.  As you may have already guessed the Red Ned of the title is a Tudor period detective.  Now the correct Tudor term that Ned prefers is intelligencer, it is so much more in keeping with his aspirations of becoming a gentleman.  Considering that the ‘common title’ is pursuivant, and as everyone knows in Tudor London a pursuivant is a lowly vagrant, who spies upon good god fearing honest people, always ready to report mischief and rumour.  What’s more they’re so untrustworthy and shifty, they’d sell their blessed mothers for a groat based on privy gossip.  Ned would never stoop so low, after all a groat won’t buy a meal for gentleman, what with the devaluing of the king’s silver.  So on to the blog I have transferred this article from my other site Prognostications and pouting to where I feel it will be more at home with its fellow Tudors.  I have also updated some of the sections to place them in more of a Red Ned Bedwell context ie where he fits in the highly complex Tudor hierarchy of family, faction, religion and politics.   

Why are we so facianted by the Tudors?I mean its such a boring dreary period. Absolutely nothing happened, no dramatic love triangles (Henry, Katherine and Anne) no illicit affairs (Henry’s mistresses all several of them) no bloody revenge of spurned wives from the grave (Katherine to Anne as on historian has suggested no zombies though) a complete lack of tragedy and pathos (the death of Jane Seymour and the official murder of Anne). And its not as if there’s any link with a few modern social crises such as growing radical religious division (protestants v’s catholics) or even the abuses of government or elitists hierarchies (Oh dear, where to start the list, the church, the Act of Supremacy, stacking Parliament).
Or perhaps we could look at the current Arab Uprisings against the entrenched corrupt regimes who stoutly insisting that they are perfect!  Those who complain must be treasonous criminals and heretics and will be rooted out and punished.  How familiar is that, do we not have an echo in the complaints of the early Protestants against the Catholic Church, doesn’t the rhetoric ring true?
Then again its was such a different world and of course they didn’t have the benefit of the internet or social media. Instead the early printing presses that ran almost 24/7 pumping out books, pamphlets and ballads all striving to put new ideas into public circulation. Not that the flood of new literature or radically fast communication had anything to do with the sudden burgeoning of ideas and changes in society. So as I said it’s no wonder that the publishing industry has consigned the Tudors to the status of a lowly niche market, inhabited by readers of historical romance and history devotees nutters. (oops Uber editor’s correction that should have been devotees, after all would our dearly beloved publishing industry ever label any of their readers as nutters?

So be it, as you’ve no doubt read in my prior posts, the Tudor era is where I’ll be launching my first series of books. As I’ve briefly outlined above this fascinating period of British history is packed full of bloodshed, treachery, manipulative scheming politicians, overt sexual tensions, a dominating monarch and a simmering religious feud that threatened to erupt into civil war. This has recently been made even more accessible by the history programs of David Starkey on Henry VIII and his Wives as well as the kind of accurate cross between a soap opera and history for television series The Tudors

Leading on from that I was checking up with my ‘unbiased’ reviewer this afternoon regarding my Tudor novel I’d recently sent him to proof read. He quite gratifyingly said it was really good and a lot of fun to read. Naturally I thought this was fantastic news. Imagine at this stage a series of energetic cartwheels and popping champagne corks. Then after my brief moment of euphoria, he uttered those dreaded words feared by any writer- ‘however’. It amazing how a simple word like ‘however’ can strike you with bone shaking dread. His use of it was luckily only as a member of the very general reading audience, thus not quite so chilling. He found it a little confusing sorting out the characters and their motives. Considering the twists, turns, reversals and abrupt terminations of the Tudor family affairs that is perfectly understandable, so as a rough guide to the perplexed here is the potted version of Tudor characters

Historical Characters

Henry VIII: King of England and Ireland, though he also longs for a chance to renew a hereditary claim to the French crown, which is why it’s stored amongst the royal titles in case of need. Henry has a serious problem due to the ravages of disease and the lottery of genetics. He is the last legitimate male Tudor. Apart from him, there is only one daughter Mary and a scattering of nieces and nephews via his two sisters. What’s worse is that he knows that if he has a ‘sudden accident’, his wife Katherine will immediately arrange a marriage of his daughter Mary to her cousins, the Hapsburgs. This possibility doesn’t improve the notoriously fickle royal humour, since Henry views her family as inherently manipulative and untrustworthy. So as the biological clock ticks away Henry desperately needs an annulment of his first marriage so that he can marry again and gain a son as heir. Simple isn’t it.

Katherine of Aragon: Queen of England and aunt of the Hapsburg Emperor Charles V, who happens to be master of half of Europe as well as the limitless riches of the New World. Katherine has a serious problem. She could only provide one living child for the English throne, a daughter Mary. By 1528 she is past child bearing age and she knows Henry is desperate for a male heir. However that can only happen if she is out of the way. This presents a difficulty since Katherine likes being queen and she wants her daughter to be queen. The solution is simple- she gains her Hapsburg nephew’s support and stymies Henry’s efforts for a legal papal divorce. In this endeavour Katherine is not alone, she has a number of both public and secret English backers in positions of power and influence. Some are men of principle and honour, while others seek to gain from a continuation of the current dynastic problem, or profit from the dispute. One more factor that is frequently ascribed to her motives, is a very deep Castilian desire for revenge. No one casts aside the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain!
Now due family connections and the vagaries of political allegiance Ned finds himself opposing the followers of Queen Katherine.  He has nothing against her personally, except that her minions keep on trying to entangle him in their plots or kill him. As you’d expect, this has not engaged his sympathies for her difficult position as a cast off and discarded wife.

Anne Boleyn: the beloved mistress of King Henry and the essential reason for the annulment commission. Her sister is rumoured to have had a son to Henry so in royal eyes the odds of a male heir are good. Anne however, wants the legal recognition of a marriage for advancement and protection. Thus the complicated legal and biblical wrangling and negotiations to and fro with the Pope that lasts for years. It’s also been said around the court that Anne is both the driving force behind Henry and keen on the heretical ideas of Luther. If her potential husband has to break with Rome, then she won’t shed a tear over it. Whether she or Henry made the first move to ramp up the affair is now irrelevant. In the bitter factional rivalry of the Tudor court it has become a do or die effort. Anne is very aware of the penalty for faltering or failure- a quick river trip to the Tower.

For good or ill Ned has by circumstance, been forced to join the ranks of those supporting the push for a ‘legal’ marriage between Ann Boleyn and his sovereign majesty King Henry.  It did help that rather than the usual method of threat or blackmail to gain his services Ned is actually rewarded for his efforts, even if it came with some pretty strict and onerous conditions.

Thomas Wolsey: Cardinal legate, Archbishop of York and the Lord Chancellor of England. The supreme administrator of the kingdom and right hand of the king. He has gained this position by solving all the king’s problems and increasing his master’s status amongst the powers of Europe. However, as an upstart commoner he is loathed by the nobility, while as the instigator of high taxes and for his supreme arrogance, he is actively hated by the commoners. With the advent of Anne Boleyn Wolsey’s power begins to slip and the Cardinal is caught in a quandary. If he pushes Anne’s cause she gains power. If he doesn’t, he loses the trust and support of the King and falls. In the end he plays a dangerous game of prevarication and delay, hoping for change of mood in his fickle royal master or until he can find a substitute for that damn Boleyn woman. Or alternately a shift in the power balance in Europe makes ‘Lady Anne’ vulnerable.

Ned’s relationship with the Cardinal is as distant as he can make it.  If Wolsey was banished to the wilds of the New World, well Ned couldn’t be happier.  It is due to the machinations of the Cardinal that Ned owes the first steps in his painful and terrifying ascent of the Tudor hierarchy.

My first story Red Ned and The Liberties of London (a 40,000 word novella complete with maps and other Tudor goodies ) comes out sometime this week on both Smashwords and Amazon Kindle!  It will also contain a few sample chapters from The Queen’s Oranges, were Ned and his companions are dragged in to a dangerous mix of murder, treason and plot possibly involving gonnepowder and… well oranges.
The prologue for The Liberties of London will be up here within a few days, feel free to have a read or leave a comment.
Gregory House


  1. I shall look for your Red Neds on Smashwords. I do have a, bone to pick with you. I thought a pursuivant was a herald in waiting--especially in the 16th-century. Even my humble American Heritage dictionary gives, "An officer in the British Colleges of Heralds who ranks below a herald" for the definition with a second definition as a server or attendant.

  2. Tried to find your novella, but I guess it's not on Smashwords yet. Maybe publish the direct link to your book once you've worked out the kinks and funny fonts (font is my four letter word) instead of the generic link to Smashwords?

  3. Hi Joanz thanks for the comments the novella is in its very last bout of revision and editing and projected submission date is about three to four days out.
    As for pursuivant, that term came up in my readings of tudor documents, while it may have been used for a position or rank in heraldry. In the references I found it also served as a more humble title for a less honourable position. Perhaps it was used like the tudor term 'nunnery' for brothel as an ironic slang tag. Thanks for pointing it out, I'll use it for a later article on spying and treachery.

  4. re: pursuivant--that makes sense since from the vulgar Latin it means to pursue. But while your MC may have known the "slang" he could have also used it to his benefit since it's a title.

  5. Do you include this summary of these characters in your novella, along with the maps? I think it would be handy for the 'lay' community.

  6. Thanks Ash, yes I do include a dramatis persona and a very attractive map of Tudor London, as well as the first three chapters of the next novel the Queen's Oranges. Now that you mention it, perhaps I should put those up as a separate blog post before the publishing?