Her Highness, the Traitor – Guest Post & Giveaway

Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham

I am delighted to welcome Susan Higginbotham to On the Tudor Trail.

To mark the release of her novel, ‘Her Highness, the Traitor‘, Susan has written a guest post about Mary I and Frances Grey that I think you will find very interesting.

I also have a copy of Susan’s novel to giveaway to one lucky commenter!

Conditions of Entry

For your chance to win a copy of Her Highness, the Traitor you must be subscribed to On the Tudor Trail’s newsletter (if you are not already, sign up on our homepage).

Then simply leave a comment after Susan’s guest post between now and June 15, 2012.

Don’t forget to leave your name and a contact email.

Good luck!

Mary I and Her Cousin Frances by Susan Higginbotham

In my latest novel, Her Highness, the Traitor, I tell in part the story of two royal cousins: Mary I, born to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, and Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset and later Duchess of Suffolk, born to Henry’s sister Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, and her husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

The association between Mary I and Frances began almost at birth, when Catherine of Aragon and her daughter, then known as Princess Mary, served as Frances’s godmothers. Mary, born on February 18, 1516, was just seventeen months older than her goddaughter Frances, born on July 16, 1517. The infant girls did not “meet” at the christening, however, as Catherine and Mary performed their duties by proxy.

In 1537 the cousins made a public appearance together. The occasion was a tragic one: the funeral of Henry VIII’s third queen, Jane Seymour. Mary was Jane Seymour’s chief mourner, and Frances followed her in the first chair. Earlier that year, probably that spring, Frances had given birth to a daughter, Jane. Probably Mary took the opportunity to congratulate Frances upon this new addition to the Grey family.

Over the next few years Frances and Mary exchanged presents. Mary gave Frances beads of crystal trimmed with gold, with a tassel of goldsmith’s work, and Frances gave Mary New Year’s gifts of a wrought (embroidered) smock, half a dozen handkerchiefs, and a pair of wrought sleeves. On occasion, Frances came to dine with Mary. Both women welcomed Anne of Cleves to England, and both attended court following Henry’s marriage to Katherine Parr.

Although the fervently Catholic Mary’s relationship with her fervently Protestant brother, Edward VI, was tense, causing Mary to keep her distance from court, she remained on good terms with Frances, whose husband and daughter Jane also held strongly Protestant views. In 1549, Frances and her three daughters visited Mary. It was perhaps on this occasion that Jane Grey famously refused a rich gown from Mary on the ground that it was inappropriate garb for a young woman professing godliness. Jane compounded her social gaffe by making an insolent remark about the Catholic veneration of the Host.

In 1553, the dying Edward VI altered the royal succession laid out by Henry VIII by making Jane Grey his heir, displacing his sisters Mary and Elizabeth. What Frances thought of this is unknown. She and Jane Grey’s mother-in-law, the Duchess of Northumberland, are reported to have wept when they heard the news that Mary planned to fight for her throne, but we can only speculate as to what emotions lay behind the duchesses’ tears.

The popular support for Mary ended Jane’s brief reign. With both her husband and Jane imprisoned, Frances hastened to Mary, who was making her triumphant way to London, to plead with the new queen. At two in the morning, Frances arrived at Mary’s palace of Beaulieu, where she managed to persuade Mary to free her husband. Whether she also pleaded for Jane is not recorded, but there is no reason to assume that she did not.

Despite gaining his freedom, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, was openly hostile to the queen’s religious changes, and when Mary announced her intention to marry Philip of Spain, Suffolk joined Thomas Wyatt’s ill-fated rebellion. Although Jane, who was already under sentence of death, had not been involved in the rebellion, Mary decided she could not risk the chance of a future rebellion being mounted in Jane’s name. On February 12, 1554, Mary executed the eldest daughter of her friend and cousin. Within a fortnight, the Duke of Suffolk followed Jane to the scaffold.

Mary treated Frances herself kindly, though. Although Suffolk’s ancestral manor of Bradgate was forfeited to the crown, Frances was allowed to retain her manor of Beaumanor and other valuable estates. Perhaps Frances’s hasty remarriage to a commoner, Adrian Stokes, convinced Mary that Frances had no royal ambitions for herself or for her surviving daughters, Katherine and Mary.

Frances seems to have occasionally attended Mary’s court and was credited by friends with bringing her niece Margaret Willoughby to the queen’s attention. At some point in Mary’s reign, Frances’s daughter Katherine became one of Mary’s maids of honor.

Mary died on November 17, 1558, and Frances just a little over a year later, on November 21, 1559. Each cousin was 42 at the time of her death. Mary’s funeral was held at Westminster Abbey with Catholic rites; Frances’s at Westminster Abbey with Protestant ones.

Visit Susan Higginbotham’s website here.

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  1. Very interesting comparison of the lives of the two cousins.

    • Very interested to read this book the tudors are great and it is a very interesting but sad story about the Grey family.

  2. Denise Jones says:

    I have always been fascinated by the Tudors for as long as I can remember. This book looks so interesting, I would love to read it!

  3. Amanda Nellist says:

    I’d like to read something where Francis Grey takes a bit more of a central stage than in other novels. She always seems like a shading character as it seems as though her motives are difficult to untangle.

    nellista at yahoo dot com dot au

  4. I would love to read this book! I know virtually nothing about Francis Grey, and not nearly enough about the Grey family! As a huge fan of the Tudors, I relish every opportunity to read about as many Tudor figures as I can! I’m excited about this book and look forward to reading it! 🙂

  5. Colleen Turner says:

    This is fascinating to see how the two cousins interacted throughout their lives. It makes it seem even more sinister to me that Mary killed Jane, her close relative. I would love to read this book!

    Colleen Turner

  6. Shannon says:

    This looks interesting. I’ve read a book on Lady Jane Grey and this looks as if it would bring more detail to what I’ve read previously. Also very nice cover.

  7. i love it i am always looking for something new to read on this period and these certain people 🙂

  8. Great article.

    Esther Sorkin

  9. Jamie C. says:

    I would love to read this book and learn more about the Grey family! It looks very captivating! Thank you!

  10. Bridgett says:

    I haven’t read very much about this yet, and I look forward to getting this book. It is a very interesting subject. I know that Elizabeth never liked the Grey side of the family either. It seems that everything had purpose back then, and rarely forgiveness was given. Thanks for sharing with us!

  11. Susan, your blogposts are as good as your books! Please put my name in the giveaway drawing bin, and thanks for the opportunity.

    Jo Ann Butler

  12. Stephanie says:

    Love the Tudor era, and different perspectives. Definitely putting this on my “To Read” list!

  13. I know very little about the Grey family and would love to know more. Good luck with your new novel, Susan!

  14. The beauty of historical fiction is that it gives a face to the cold, hard facts of history. It is often a cruel countenance but never is it uncomplicated. British history continues to fascinates us as both readers and writers because it is so rich with intrigue and personal relationships filled with emotions that often mirror our own experiences. I look forward to this exploration into the background players of the tragedy that was manifest in the short-lived reign of Lady Jane Grey.

  15. Stephanie Howsare says:

    I am always impressed by the amount of intrigue and interweaving of the family lines during the Tudor Era, there seems no end of what is out there to be found.

  16. Always a pleasure to recieve recommendations of historical authors I have yet to discover. Susan Higginbotham looks like a name to be adding to my list. Thank you “On The Tudor Trail” for continued updates and facts (and fab tweets!) – another new book I look forward to reading! 🙂

  17. I’d love to read more about these women since there’s not many books about them. And I’ve loved Higginbotham’s previous books. I’m curious to know how she portrays them because they’re not usually described very nicely.


  18. Natasha Hayes says:

    more interesting stories from The Tudors, what an amazing time in Europe’s history

  19. The Tudor era in English history captured my attention at an early age, with the BBC series of, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII.” After all of these years, I am still captivated by anything Tudor, especially Anne Boleyn and her cousin Catherine Howard. I have read many books that contained limited information and detail about lesser known Tudor women, and look forward to reading this book as it reveals more insight into the lives of one of history’s most colorful families.

  20. Jasmine says:

    I feel like Frances is in the same boat as Jane Rochford in that both have been maligned over the centuries and quite possibly the truth of what kind of women they were in their day to day life may be lost to us. I read “Innocent Traitor” by Alison Weir and I thought Frances was a monster, but maybe I was being unfair

  21. I`ve read a few books about the Grey girls, Francis always seemed like a monster . She was portrayed that way in the movie Lady Jane also. Would love to read this new book!!

  22. christina says:

    interesting!!! very interesting!!!

  23. Thank you for sharing, very interesting!

  24. I would love to read this book and learn more about the Grey family. Sounds very interesting!

  25. Kim Cree says:

    Would love to win this book!

  26. This is so interesting! I started a project on Mary I for fun, and since then i have become more and more interested in her! thanks for doing this!

  27. Kathy Butler says:

    I am so excited to read this book!! I think I have been interested in the Tudor era my entire life! If there is one time in history I’d love to go back to, it’s to the time of Henry VIII. Oh to be a fly on the wall….

    Most of what I have read about Mary is in other Tudor books, and they don’t say all that much about her. It will be fantastic to read about her and Frances! I don’t think she is mentioned in any of the books I have read… Will be a great read!

  28. Jennifer says:

    This sounds like a very interesting story. I would love to read more about Frances Grey. I’ve read ‘Innocent Traitor’ and my impression of Frances was that she was a mean mother to her daughters, especially Jane. I would love to read this book and add it to my ever growing Tudor collection.

  29. Cheryl Esselman says:

    Very interesting!!!!!! I was not aware of these facts!!! The Tudor era was far from dull!! I wonder if it was a difficult decision for Mary to have Frances’ husband and daughter executed. One would think so but maybe not??!!


  30. Thank you for your comments ladies! A winner will be selected and announced shortly. Good luck! Natalie

  31. Okay, the winner is Lori Thomas! Congratulations Lori and thank you everyone for entering. We have more wonderful giveaways coming very soon so watch this space 🙂

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