Monday, July 15, 2013
Guest Post: Henry the Eighth I Am, I Am by J. L. Spohr
As a special treat this week, I present a guest post from historical novelist J. L. Spohr. I have recently received a review copy of her latest book, Heirs and Spares and will be posting my thoughts in the very near future. In the meantime, please enjoy reading Jennie's thoughts on America's fascination with British royalty.
Henry the Eight I Am, I Am:
The Man Behind America’s Obsession with British Royals
By J.L. Spohr
With the whole world holding its breath and waiting to meet the new Windsor heir, it’s no surprise that parents-to-be Kate Middleton and Prince William are consistently ranked as the top two celebrities in People magazine. Strangely, we Americans have been obsessed with the British royals ever since we won our hard-fought freedom from them. The question is why? Yes, they’re a living breathing fairy tale and a reality TV drama all in one, but why the pull? Why do we rank them higher than our own rich and famous?
Part of the answer is our own history, but part of the answer is their history. And no part of British history seems more intriguing to the American mind than that of the Tudors. Even before Johnathan Rhys Meyers (swoon) played the lusty and hot-tempered monarch , the story of Henry VIII and his four ill-fated wives (and two content ones), is the stuff of a storyteller’s dream. Books like The Other Boleyn Girl and Wolf Hall launched author’s careers, and there is no end of corseted Tudor ladies ruling the bestseller lists, not only for historical fiction but fiction, period.
When I was writing the female protagonist of my own historical novel, I kept coming back to an amalgamation of Henry’s wives because their story has it all: murder, mistresses, plotting, poison, political climbing, betrayal, barren wombs, lust, religious upheaval, war, really gruesome deaths, really poetic deaths, grasping men and false women all wrapped up in fabulous clothes and astounding castles. Not to mention the break with Rome that changed the course of Western history.
You don’t even need to be a royal watcher or Anglophile like me to be fascinated by King Henry’s life and its fall out. The all-together majesticness of his majesty keeps pulling us back, hundreds of years later, despite his horrific temper, wandering eyes, and unsupportable beheadings.
I was at Hampton Court last summer—this is the palace Cardinal Wolsey built and was forced to gift to Henry – and they have actors dressed in traditional Tudor garb who walk about, acting out a half ad-libbed, half scripted play throughout the palace. I felt that I had missed my life’s calling, and if I squinted out the other tourists in the background, I could put myself right back there in the 16th century, standing under Anne Boleyn’s gate while being brushed by the hem of His Majesty’s cloak. It was thrilling, even if only make-believe. And even if I was wearing Gore-Tex instead of silk damask.
I write historical fiction because I’ve spent my life being fascinated with the Tudors and their descendents, and I want to answer the questions: “why did these people, in this situation, do what they did?” When a man, who seemingly has the world at his feet, beheads two wives, and divorces two more, all in the name of getting a male heir, yet who will instead pass his crown to an audacious and astounding daughter, that man is one who will pique the curiosity of history again and again.
The current House of Windsor bears no real relation to the Tudors. Kate Middleton’s head is probably secure, regardless of what she does next. Yet for many of us, the royal prince and princesses still hold up the mantel of that exciting, tragic, and world-changing history. That’s something no rich celebrity or lauded actor can compete with, and it’s what keeps us coming back for more.
J. L. Spohr is the author of Heirs & Spares and several short stories. An incurable Anglophile, she turned her attention to historical fiction and fictional monarchies after studying the Reformation in graduate school. She is an ordained minister and lives with her brood in Seattle. Visit her online at www.jlspohr.com.
It’s 1569. Elizabeth I sits on the English throne, the Reformation inflames the Continent, and whispers of war abound.
But in Troixden, just north of France, the Lady Annelore isn’t interested in politics. Times are hard, taxes are high, and the people in her duchy need her help just to survive. Her widowed father is a good man easily distracted by horses, and her newly knighted childhood friend…well, he has plans of his own.
Then Annelore receives a call she can’t ignore.
When Troixden’s sadistic king died childless, his younger brother William returns from exile to find his beloved country on the brink of civil war. He’s in desperate need of the stability that comes with a bride and heirs. But Annelore, his chosen queen, won’t come quietly.
Now the future of Troixden lies in the hands of two people who never wanted the power they’ve received and never dreamed that from duty and honor they might find love and a path to peace.
Heirs & Spares is one part history, two parts palace plotting, and a whole lot of juicy romantic intrigue. Break out the spiced wine and sink in to this rousing read.