C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.
In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into fourteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.
He’s currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).
Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.
Welcome to CW Gortner and thank you for the blog post Mary Tudor Catholic Queen
Mary Tudor: A Catholic Tudor Queen
An Original Essay by C.W. Gortner
Mary I of England is without doubt one of history’s most reviled and misunderstood figures—a queen who overcame tremendous odds to win her throne in 1553 yet who managed by her death in 1558 to have deeply divided her realm, responsible for a savage persecution that terrorized her realm. She ruled only five years but so terrible is the memory of her deeds that she has earned the sobriquet of “Bloody Mary”, a name for which she is still known today.
Mary was the sole surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. Catherine was sent to England to marry the Tudor heir, Prince Arthur, but his sudden demise left her a widow. Catherine claimed the marriage had never been consummated, and her impoverished isolation in the years that followed stoked the ardor of the new heir, Henry, who, upon his coronation, wed Catherine despite a six-year difference in their ages. Catherine and Henry were married for twenty-four years; stalwart and devout, indubitably in love with her husband, Catherine endured numerous miscarriages and the death of an infant son before finally giving birth to Mary in February of 1516.
As Henry’s sole heir (for despite his later obsessive quest for a son, a daughter could inherit his crown) Mary was adored by her parents. Historical sources recount numerous occasions when the handsome king displayed his fair-haired daughter to his court, showing off her skill with music and graceful charm. But Henry’s disillusion with his aging, now-barren wife catapulted him into a tumultuous affair with one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting, the ambitious Anne Boleyn, who would settle for nothing less than marriage. Thus, at the age of fifteen, Mary’s entire world was turned upside down, her status yanked out from under her as she watched her mother, clinging to her title and rights, exiled to a remote manor, where Catherine died in appalling conditions and in fear for the safety of the daughter she’d been forbidden to see. Anne Boleyn also vented her spleen, forcing Mary to serve Anne’s infant daughter by Henry, Princess Elizabeth, and even, sources claim, plotting to have Mary killed. The cataclysm unleashed by Henry’s passion for Anne changed England forever, resulting in a nascent reformation that would in time make Protestantism the official faith, even as Anne waged desperate battle to protect herself and her child. In 1536, Anne lost her battle and was executed on trumped-up charges; within weeks Elizabeth joined her half-sister Mary as a bastard daughter of the king.
Mary’s struggles continued while Henry married four more times. Steadfast in her Catholicism, the faith in which she’d been reared and which her mother had exhorted her to uphold, she finally gave into her father’s demands to acknowledge him as Head of the Church—an act that haunted her for the rest of her life, as she felt she’d betrayed her mother’s trust and her own belief that the only true church was the Catholic one. In those years, she developed an often uneasy relationship with her half-siblings, Elizabeth and their brother Edward, born of Henry’s third wife, both of whom had imbued the radical spirit of the Reformation.
Various suitors for Mary’s hand came and went; at the age of thirty-seven, when many women were considered unmarriageable, she found herself in the hunter’s snare once more when John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, usurped her claim to the throne upon Edward VI’s death and set his daughter-in-law, Jane Grey, in her place. Often neglected and ignored, prematurely aged by self-imposed seclusion, Mary displayed her innate Tudor ferocity, eluding her pursuers to amass an army and march on London. She may have been a Catholic spinster but the people cheered her as the rightful queen and rallied to her cause. She was crowned in the summer of 1553, sending Jane Grey, Northumberland and his sons to the Tower. Many of the new queen’s advisors, including the wily Imperial ambassador, Renard, urged Mary to execute her prisoners but she consented only to Northumberland’s death, promising release in time for Jane and the Dudley sons. Even in questions of religion she expressed caution, citing her people’s hearts could only be won back in stages. Nevertheless, one of her first acts was to overturn the annulment of her mother’s marriage to Henry VIII, casting further doubt on Elizabeth’s legitimacy.
The advent of her marriage to Philip of Spain, son of the Hapsburg emperor and Mary’s cousin, Charles V, who had long been a scion of support, if not actual assistance, changed everything. Suddenly, Mary saw the possibility of happiness bloom before her: the chance to be love and be loved, to become a wife and mother. As Renard pressured her to deal with all remaining threats to her faith and crown, including Elizabeth, whom he believed was the active figurehead of Protestant opposition, the deep-seated wounds inflicted on Mary since adolescence flared anew. She remembered her hatred of Anne Boleyn, her helpless horror over her father’s zeal to amass the Church’s wealth and abolish its power, her heartrending sorrow at the separation from, and death of, her mother, and the long years of humiliation. The past could be absolved, she believed. Everything that had gone wrong could be put to right, if only she roused the strength that Catherine of Aragon had shown; the unstinting fervor that her maternal grandmother, Queen Isabella, had employed to unite Spain. She saw herself as a savior, who must do whatever was required to bring about her people’s return to the Catholic fold.
Caught in a maelstrom of her own convictions, Mary precipitated her tragedy.
It is too simple to condemn her as a monster, though she behaved in a monstrous way. Her execution of Jane Grey and subsequent burning of over two hundred Protestants, among who were Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, and Bishops Ridley and Latimer, blackened her name and left her country in chaos, the smoke of the pyres only clearing once she took to her deathbed after a false pregnancy that may have been uterine cancer. She left behind a realm ravaged by political and religious dissension, widespread famine and penury. The loss of England’s last possession in France, the city of Calais, was a blow Mary declared would be found engraved on her heart. Even in her final hours, she was beset by those who implored her to condemn Elizabeth—an act she refused. In doing so, Mary unwittingly accomplished in death what she had failed to do in life: She gave England back its hope, in the form of a virgin queen, whose unparalleled grandeur and longevity would define an era.
Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen – or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy
England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope – the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.
Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.
Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing – and no one – is what it seems.
Its always a privilege to be invited to take part in a blog tour for a new book, historical fiction is a genre I really enjoy reading so i pretty much had to take part in this. But… Im really not a fan of the Tudor period, its one of the few parts of English history we covered at school. The trouble is my history teacher was terrible, she like to sneak off for a cigarette in the supply room rather than teach, we were educated in most of our subject matter direct from dry dusty text books. Recently though several authors have managed to bring to life periods of history i considered “potentially boring” so how could i not give C.W. Gortner the benefit of the doubt.
I’m bloody glad i did, the book was incredible; the whole period brought to life, given colour and passion, intrigue , violence, action and the tension of well constructed conspiracies. The characters especially Brendan Prescott are life like and more importantly believable. Its very easy to make a hero larger than life in a book, but Prescott is just a clever real young man, someone thrust into the middle of big conspiracies, hiding his own secrets like the rest of the people he deals with. Princess Elizabeth is cool, calm and enigmatic as expected, but also scared, troubled, frightened and doing all she can and all she thinks is right for her country, and to survive her sisters papal leanings and advisers. This really is a wonderful book that flys along at such a pace its over before you know it or want it to be.
I highly recommend reading this book and series