Mastodon The Writing Desk: December 2018

29 December 2018

Dr Sarah Morris tells the story of the Anne of Cleves Heraldic Panels

This mini-documentary tells the incredible story of 'The Anne of Cleves Heraldic Panels' uncovered in 2016 through a combination of curiosity, dogged-determination and breath-taking synchronicity!

Today, these panels, located in Old Warden Church, Bedfordshire, are a nationally important, historic collection illustrative of a royal interior of the mid-sixteenth century. However, the panels are under threat. 

Back in 2015, I was lucky to be part fo the small team, which included Jonathan Foyle and Christine Hill, that 'discovered' the Anne of Cleves Heraldic Panels; a set of 22 finely carved, oak panels bearing the initials and emblems of Anne of Cleves.

They made up a new 'nationally important historic collection', a rare find of a personal, domestic interior associated with Tudor royalty. The panels had been misidentified over the years, but through bringing modern techniques and know-how to bear, we were able to establish that they were without doubt contemporary to Anne of Cleve's lifetime.

They bore her personal emblems and undoubtedly must have decorated a very high status chamber, likely in one of her dower properties; perhaps Bletchingley, or the King's Manor at Dartford.

Last year it became clear that the fabric of the church was crumbling - badly. There is serious water penetration in parts of the church, and just in the last couple of months one of the parapets fell off. Luckily, no-one was hurt.

I am passionate about Tudor history; for me buildings and artefacts form a physical connection to some of my historical heroines & heros - Anne of Cleves being one of them. She was a woman I came to greatly admire through my research for 'In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII'.

I don't know about you, but for me, artefacts like these allow me to connect more deeply with the person who had them created. These panels meant something to Anne. They reminded her of her heritage and homeland (somewhere she missed greatly in the latter years of her life). Through these I can understand her just that little bit better.

This collection of panels are unique. There are few royal, Tudor interiors of this kind in existence...and as you can hear about in the accompanying video (release date 28th December at 8pm), the strap-work carved into the panels represents some of the earliest known in England. Anne of Cleves was trend-setting!

I wanted to step in and help the church council who have a whopping bill of £750,000 to pay to make good the building. The work, however, is being split into phases and the most urgent work, to protect the principal treasures, will cost some £90,000.

I couldn't stand by and do nothing. I know that we care about Tudor history with a passion and that the preservation of historic buildings and Tudor artefacts matter to people like us.

So, my role in this is to help spread the word of the damage being done - and the threat to the panels. If you want to act, the church council have set up a Just Giving page, where you can donate whatever you are able to afford.

Please also share this page with at least one other friend. In that way we can keep the conversation going until the panels are safe again. Thank you for giving your support.

Donate via the St Leonard's 'Just Giving Page' (Note: this page is not managed, or affiliated, in any way but The Tudor Travel Guide)

Like the 'Save the Anne of Cleves Heraldic Panels' Facebook Page and share with least one friend to help spread the word at:

Thank you for your support.

Dr Sarah Morris
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About The Tudor Travel Guide

The Tudor Travel Guide is dedicated to providing you with all the top tips on where to go and what to see to bring those places linked to the Tudor period to life. Here, you can be free to live in your imagination, recreating and learning about historic palaces, castles and manor houses as they would have been in the sixteenth century. But more than that, you will find inspiration for you next journey, your next adventure; places to visit, places to stay, books to read and walks to take – all linked to the Tudor period. Follow The Tudor Travel Guide on Facebook and Twitter @TheTTGuide

27 December 2018

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Blood of my Blood (The Elizabeth of England Chronicles Book 6) by Gemma Lawrence

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

August 1572:  As the horror of the St Bartholomew's Eve massacre in France shudders through England, Elizabeth Tudor fears religious violence will spread. In order to keep her country safe, she must make peace with enemies, whilst working secretly to disrupt their ambitions. 

Through years fraught with the threat of invasion, Elizabeth will fight on, attempting to maintain balance as Europe descends into chaos and bloodshed. But the threats against England are mounting. Catholic priests, trained in the Low Countries, are sent into England to disrupt her religious settlement, and there is rebellion in Ireland. Puritans are infiltrating her Church, foreign princes wish her dead, Protestants overseas call constantly for aid and the threat of Mary Queen of Scots, still a captive under Elizabeth's power, shakes the stability of the throne. 

Yet Elizabeth has weapons... her pirates, sent out to unsettle the might and threat of Spain, her men and their spies, and lastly, her wits; her most formidable weapon. 

But the greatest blow will come not from foreign princes, hostile religious zealots or from her cousin of Scots, but from the person closest to her... The one she trusted above all others. 

Blood of my Blood is Book Six in The Elizabeth of England Chronicles

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About the Author

Gemma Lawrence is an independently published author living in Cornwall in the UK. She studied literature at university says, 'I write mainly Historical Fiction, with an emphasis on the Tudor and Medieval periods and have a particular passion for women of history who inspire me'.Gemma can be found on Wattpad and Twitter @TudorTweep.

17 December 2018

A Murdered Peace: A Kate Clifford Novel (Kate Clifford Mystery) by Candace Robb

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

It is deep winter in York, 1400, the ground frozen, the short days dimmed with the smoke from countless fires, the sun, when it shines, low in the sky. It is rumored that the Epiphany Uprising, meant to relieve the realm of the Henry the usurper and return King Richard to the throne has, instead, spelled his doom.

As long as Richard lives, he is a threat to Henry. So, too, the nobles behind the plot. The ringleaders have been caught, some slaughtered as they fled west by folk loyal to Henry, and the king’s men now search the towns for survivors.

 A perilous time, made worse for Kate Clifford by the disappearance of Berend, her cook and confidante, shortly after Christmas. Her niece saw his departure in a dream—he said he was honor bound to leave. Honor bound—to a former lord?

One of the nobles who led the uprising? Is he alive? She is hardly consoled when Berend reappears, wounded, secretive, denying any connection to the uprising, but refusing to explain himself. When he is accused of brutally murdering a spice seller in the city, Kate discovers a chest of jewels in his possession.

Some of the jewels belong to her old friend Lady Margery, wanted by the king for her husband’s part in the uprising. For the sake of their long friendship, and the love she and her wards bear for him, Kate wants to believe his innocence. So, too, does Sir Elric. And he has the powerful backing of the Earl of Westmoreland. All she need do is confide in him. If only she trusted her heart.

Praise for A Murdered Peace

“Those who meddle in the affairs of kings live to regret it. A...tale of love and murder set in a turbulent period when death and betrayal lurk around every corner.” -Kirkus Reviews “Superior. Robb effortlessly integrates the era’s intrigues into a whodunit framework and peoples the plot with a wide array of characters readers will come to care about.” -Publishers Weekly (starred) “A fine flowing narrative and a genuine sense of mystery and peril.” -Writers & Readers

About the Author

Candace Robb did her graduate work in medieval literature and history, and has continued to study the period while working first as an editor of scientific publications and now for some years as a freelance writer. Candace has published 13 crime novels set in 14th century England, Wales, and Scotland. The Owen Archer series is based in York. Candace was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has lived most of her adult life in Seattle, Washington, which she and her husband love for its combination of natural beauty and culture. Candace enjoys walking, hiking, and gardening, and practices yoga and vipassana meditation. She travels frequently to Great Britain. Find out more at and find Candace on Facebook and Twitter @CandaceMRobb 

Book Blast Schedule:

Tuesday, December 11 100 Pages a Day Bookish Rantings Wednesday, December 12 The Lit Bitch Bri's Book Nook Passages to the Past
Thursday, December 13 Creating Herstory Just One More Chapter
Friday, December 14 What Is That Book About Jennifer Tar Heel Reader
Saturday, December 15 Old Timey Books Historical Fiction with Spirit
Sunday, December 16 Donna's Book Blog Hoover Book Reviews
Monday, December 17 The Writing Desk
Tuesday, December 18 A Book Geek Tea Book Blanket
Wednesday, December 19 Umut Reviews The Book Junkie Reads
Thursday, December 20 Clarissa Reads it All For the Sake of Good Taste
Friday, December 21 Jathan & Heather Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed set of Candace Robb's Kate Clifford series! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 21st. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US residents only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. A Murdered Peace

16 December 2018

Stories of the Tudors Podcast - Charles Brandon

Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent. 

Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell. Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen? 

For more information and links to all my books please visit

14 December 2018

Guest Post by Sharon Bennett Connolly, Author of Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest, by

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Harold II of England had been with Edith Swanneck for twenty years but in 1066, in order to strengthen his hold on the throne, he married Ealdgyth, sister of two earls. William of Normandy’s Duchess, Matilda of Flanders, had supposedly only agreed to marry the Duke after he’d pulled her pigtails and thrown her in the mud. Harald Hardrada had two wives – apparently at the same time. So, who were these women? What was their real story? And what happened to them after 1066?

The Kievan Connection: First Wife of Harald Hardrada

When I started writing Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest I discovered that there are several Kievan links to the story of 1066. The baby sons of England’s short-lived king, Edmund II Ironside, who reigned and died in 1016, were given sanctuary and protection in Kiev, saving them from the clutches of Edmund’s successor, King Cnut. And after the Conquest, Harold II Godwinson’s own daughter, Gytha, would make her life in Kiev as the wife of Vladimir II Monomakh and was the mother of Mstislav the Great, the last ruler of a united Kievan Rus. Vladimir was the nephew of Harald Hardrada’s first wife, the Russian princess, Elisiv.

Harald Hardrada’s story had been one of almost-constant conflict since he was a teenager. At the age of 15 he had fought alongside his half-brother, King Óláf, at the Battle of Stiklestad, in an unsuccessful attempt by Óláf to regain the throne. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded: ‘This year returned King Óláf into Norway; but the people gathered together against him, and fought against him; and he was there slain, in Norway, by his own people, and was afterwards canonized.’ [1]
Following Olaf’s death, Harald Hardrada first fled to Sweden before moving on to Kievan Rus. Harald spent 3 or 4 years at the court of Yaroslav I the Wise, Prince of Kiev, husband of Óláf’s sister-in-law, Ingergerd (sister of Óláf’s wife, Queen Astrid). At only 15, Harald’s military skills were already impressive and Yaroslav made him a captain in his army; the young Norwegian fought alongside the Kievan prince on his campaigns against the Poles in 1031.

Having gained a reputation that spread throughout eastern Europe, in 1034 or 1035, Harald and his force of 500 men moved on to Constantinople, where he joined the ranks of the Varangian Guard, in the service of the Byzantine emperor, Michael IV (reigned 1034–1041). A formidable warrior and commander, Harald eventually became leader of the whole Varangian guard, seeing action against Arab pirates, and the towns of Asia Minor that supported them. Throughout his adventures in Byzantium, Harald sent his plunder back to Prince Yaroslav in Kiev; treasure which, given the number of towns he had taken, must have been quite considerable.

On the death of Michael IV Constantinople proved a less friendly place for the Scandinavian and after a brief imprisonment and daring escape from his cell, Hardrada decided that it was time to return home. It is said that the new empress, Zoe, refused him permission to leave, but the Norwegian managed to escape Constantinople with two ships and his most loyal supporters. One of the ships was destroyed by the iron chains which blocked the seagoing entrance and exit to Constantinople, but the other made it through by shifting the weight in the ship so that it effectively jumped over the chain. Harald returned to his friend Yaroslav I in Kiev, to whom he had sent his vast amounts of plunder. In 1044, whilst still at Yaroslav’s court, Harald married the Kievan prince’s daughter, Elisiv (also known as Elisiff, Elizabeth or Elizaveta).

Elisiv was born around 1025 and would probably have met Harald when he first appeared at her father’s court as a 15-year-old fugitive from Cnut’s conquest of Norway in 1034–5. Elisiv was probably the oldest daughter of Yaroslav’s eleven children with his wife, Ingegerd. Through her mother, Elisiv was the granddaughter of Sweden’s king, Olof Stötkonung. Her father, Grand Prince Yaroslav, was responsible for the rise in power and influence of Russia in the 11th century; his court was considered modern and cultured. Yaroslav’s children were well-educated and able to read and write, including the girls; Elisiv’s sister, Anna, who married King Henry I of France, demonstrated her superior level of education when she signed her marriage contract with her full name, in her own hand; KingHenry, her new husband, could only manage to write a cross. Although we have no description of Elisiv, we know that Anna was renowned for her ‘exquisite beauty, literacy and wisdom’ and we can assume that Elisiv, having shared in her sister’s upbringing, was no less accomplished. [2]

It is possible that marriage between Harald and Elisiv had been discussed during the Norwegian’s first visit to Kiev in 1030. However, given that she would have only been nine or ten years of age when Harald left for Constantinople, it seems hard to believe the claims that Elisiv had refused him on the grounds that he was not wealthy enough to marry her; her father, on the other hand, may well have done so. This may also explain Harald sending his plunder back to Kiev for safekeeping, as proof of his increasing wealth and eligibility as a husband for Elisiv, even if he still held no princely title and was exiled from his homeland. In 1044, therefore, there was no financial objection to Harald and Elisiv marrying and there is evidence that Harald was genuinely in love with his Russian bride; Harald wrote poetry to his Russian princess:

Past Sicily’s wide plains we flew,
A dauntless, never-wearied crew;
Our Viking steed rushed through the sea,
As Viking-like fast, fast sailed we.
Never, I think, along this shore
Did Norsemen ever sail before;
Yet to the Russian queen, I fear,
My gold-adorned, I am not dear. [3]

With the treasure Harald amassed during his sojourn in Constantinople and Elisiv’s dowry, Harald now had the means to return home. He initially made for Sweden, arriving there in 1046. By the end of the year, he was co-king in Norway, under Magnus the Good, who left Harald to rule Norway while he concentrated on Denmark. The two kings had kept separate courts, Harald’s court in Norway was presided over by his queen, Elisiv. Within a couple of years of arriving in Norway, the couple had two daughters, Ingegerd and Maria Haraldsdóttir. Ingergerd was probably born in 1046, with Maria arriving a year of two after.

Married life, however, was about to get more complicated, when Harald took a second wife, without setting aside Elisiv. According to Snorri Sturluson, in the ‘winter after King Magnus the Good died, King Harald took Thora, daughter of Thorberg Arnason, and they had two sons; the oldest called Magnus, and the other Olaf.’ [4] 

Sharon Bennett Connolly

Footnotes: [1] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle translated by James Ingram; [2] Prominent Russians: Anna Yaroslavna (article),; [3] Quoted in Fulford: The Forgotten Battle of 1066 by Charles Jones; [4] Heimskringla. The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, by Snorre Sturluson.

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About the Author

Sharon Bennett Connolly was born in Yorkshire and studied at University in Northampton before working at Disneyland in Paris and Eurostar in London. She has been fascinated by history for over thirty years and has worked as a tour guide at historical sites, including Conisbrough Castle. Best known for her fascinating blog History ... the Interesting Bits she began focusing on medieval women and in 2016 her first non-fiction book, Heroines of the Medieval World was published by Amberley Publishing. Follow Sharon on Facebook and Twitter @Thehistorybits

New: Tales of Freya – Sensual Short Stories, by Sarah Dahl

New on  Amazon UK and Amazon US

In this collection of adult bedtime stories, Sarah Dahl pulls back the curtain of history to depict the erotic lives of Viking men and women. Amid the stark landscapes of fjords, forests and snowcapped mountain peaks, her characters search for love and passion. Dahl authentically illuminates the sensual side of a world of battle and plunder in an alluring collection perfect for every lover of gritty Viking romance.

A warrior recovering by a river is drawn into an unforeseen skirmish with a beautiful shield maiden. An enslaved Christian monk is entranced by his captors’ pagan allure. A dissatisfied housewife finds that her home holds an unexpected and liberating secret. An injured farmer is captivated by the magic of his irresistible healer ...

In a world of crackling fires and rough landscapes, long winters and bloody raids, the immediacy of life and death ignites undeniable passions. Warriors and monks, healers and housewives – all follow the call of their hearts and bodies to indulge in pleasures that may forever change their lives.

Why Freya is the perfect namegiver for a series of Viking sensual romance with grit

There are many reasons why this collection of sensual tales had to carry the name of the goddess Freya. First and foremost, Freya was the goddess of love and war (as well as sex, lust, beauty, sorcery, fertility, gold, and death) for the Vikings. Both themes dominate my stories: love, passion, desire, battles and fights of all kinds.

The name Freya (in Old Norse "Freyja") means "lady". Her name can be spelled Freya, Freija, Frejya, Freyia, Fröja, Frøya, Frøjya, Freia, Freja, Frua, and Freiya. She is from the Vanir gods, but became an honorable member of the Aesir after the war between the Aesir and Vanir ended.

Freya lives in Asgard (the home of the gods, as opposed to Midgard, the home of the Vikings on earth). Her house is located by the field Fólkvangr, the "field of the host", "people field" or "army field". Half of the warriors who died in a battle go to her for the afterlife, while Odin will receive the other half. Freya is always given the first choice among the brave warriors after she had picked the ones she wanted, the rest were sent to Odin. I'm quite sure which of my warriors she would have found worthy to live with her …

Freya is incredibly beautiful and she has many admirers, not just among the gods and goddesses but also among the dwarves and giants. And among the humans: The magic of the goddess Freya is a constant topic in many original tales, such as the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources as well as in the Prose Edda and the Heimskringla, composed by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century. She appears in several Sagas of Icelanders, in the short story "Sörla þáttr", in the poetry of skalds, which were the storytellers of the Viking Age.

And now she also becomes the fitting title- and theme-giver and a frequent addressee for my characters in the Tales of Freya, my collection of sensual Viking romance short stories.

But she is not only the topic of many tales — she also has a big passion for poems and stories herself, and she loves to sit and listen to songs for many hours. So Freya surely is a fitting goddess to grace the cover of these Viking Tales about human battles and passions! Freya herself loves and grieves passionately. When she was left by her lover, she cried tears that turned into amber or gold.

But did you know: Freya also has a boar named Hildisvini, "battle swine", which she rides when she is not using her cat-drawn chariot. And here comes a very naughty tale: they say the boar is Freya’s human lover, Ottar, in disguise — so Loki consistently accuses her of being immoral by riding her lover in public…

Who would have thought the Viking mythology was quite so … naughty?
The goddess surely makes one fascinating protagonist …

Someone should definitely write her many stories down.

Skål to the goddess of love and war – wishing you happy holidays and a wonderful new year!

Sarah Dahl

(additional source:, accessed Nov 15, 2018)

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About the Author

Sarah Dahl lives on the edge of the rural German Eifel and writes historical fiction (novels and short stories) primarily set in the Viking age. She also works as an editor, translates, and coaches new writers in German and English. She is interested in everyday life in bygone centuries and the human stories that may have occurred behind the hard, historical facts. Find out more at Sarah's website www, and find her on Facebook and Twitter @sarahdahl13

3 December 2018

Book Spotlight ~ The Blue, by Nancy Bilyeau

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice.

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue…

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage.

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?
‘...transports the reader into the heart of the 18th century porcelain trade—where the price of beauty was death.’ - E.M. Powell, author of the Stanton & Barling medieval mystery series. 
'Bilyeau is an impressive talent who brings to life a heart-stopping story of adventure, art and espionage during the Seven Years War.' - Stephanie Dray, bestselling author of My Dear Hamilton
'With rich writing, surprising twists, and a riveting sense of 'you are there,' The Blue is spine-tingling entertainment.' – Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassins

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About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau studied History at the University of Michigan and has worked on the staffs of "InStyle," "Good Housekeeping," and "Rolling Stone." She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributor to "Town & Country" and "The Vintage News." Nancy's mind is always in past centuries but she currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City. Find out more at Nancy's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @Tudorscribe

2 December 2018

Book Launch Excerpt from Sisters of Arden, by Judith Arnopp

Available for pre-order from

England 1536: For almost four hundred years Arden Priory remains unchanged until a nameless child is abandoned at the gatehouse door; the nuns take her in and raise her as one of their own.

As Henry VIII’s second queen dies on the scaffold, the embittered King strikes out, and unprecedented change sweeps across the country. The bells of the great abbeys fall silent, the church and the very foundation of the realm begin to crack. 

Determined to preserve their way of life, novitiate nuns Margery and Grace join a pilgrimage thirty thousand strong and attempt to lead the heretic king back to grace.

Sisters of Arden is a story of valour, virtue and veritas.

An excerpt from Sisters of Arden
1537 - Yorkshire

We run, heads down through the darkness, away from the cries of our dying friends and the sickening thud of their falling bodies.
  Ducking through a garden gate, I cast about for a hay store or a tangle of bushes that might conceal us. Grabbing her wrist, I pull Frances into a briar patch, the thorns snagging and tearing at our robes and limbs. As we crouch in the dark, she trembles and wipes her wet cheeks on my sleeve. I can just distinguish her bone-white face and the stark terror in her eyes, and I am sickened with guilt that I have led her to this. Her life is now forfeit to my mistaken conviction that simple folk can make a difference.
  I grope for God in the faithless void of my mind, begging that the king’s men grow tired of the hunt and ride away, back to their warm hearths, their laden tables, and their fragrant, sinful wives. Frances’ teeth begin to rattle, her breath faltering as her courage dwindles. I give her a gentle shake and put a warning finger against her lips, beseeching her to be silent, to be brave for just a little longer.
  As the stealthy hooves draw closer to our hiding place, we hold our breath, sinking deeper into the undergrowth when he halts just a little way above our heads. The dank aroma of rotting vegetation rises; the tang of frost tickles my nose and pinches my toes. Frances trembles so violently it is indistinguishable from the juddering of my own body. I fumble for prayer, nausea washing over me as I fail to recall a single one.
  A creak of harness as the rider shifts in his saddle. I cannot see him but when the horse snorts, in my mind’s eye his breath mists the darkness, rising wraith-like in the night. I can feel the rake of the man’s gaze as he searches, seeking out our hiding place. My lungs strain fit to burst, my chest is aching, and I am ready to relinquish my freedom for just one blessed breath. The horse stirs, turns and moves away, and we fill our lungs with fresh damp air. We clutch hands as the vague hope of escape returns.
  Then noise erupts with a harsh yelp. A hound is loosed and, with a furious growl, it crashes through the hedge. As I fall backward, I glimpse a lolling tongue, and yellow eyes stare briefly into mine; cold, murderous eyes. Frances’ scream shatters the night as the jaws clamp down upon her wrist.
  “Let go! Let go!” I strike out with my bare feet, feeling the crack of bony ribs beneath a silken coat.   The hound yelps but holds on fast, screaming aloud as I kick out again, hammering his head with my heels. The air fills with a confusion of hooves, screaming women, and triumphant male laughter as they lay hands upon us. As they drag me to my feet, Frances gives a loud unintelligible sound that breaks my heart.
  “Please,” I beg, as my hands are wrenched behind me and roughly held. “We are nuns from Arden. My sister has done nothing. Take me, but … let Sister Frances go – she ... she doesn’t understand.”
  A white dagger of agony flashes through my skull as my captor clouts me around the ear. My head rings and my vision blurs. Through a fog of pain, I realise they are hauling Frances from the ground, dragging us both rudely forward.
  “Hold them,” the man on the horse orders, and their grip tightens as he slides from his saddle, hawks and spits on the ragged skirts of my habit before slowly unfurling a rope from his belt.
  The knots are tight about my wrists; my hands are numb. I cry out as the horse jolts forward and, tethered to the saddle, all we can do is follow him. Agonisingly, we retrace our route back the way we have come, through the hamlets and homesteads that earlier offered us shelter.
  Our cause is lost. Our peaceful mission to bring England back to the true church has failed; doomed by the promises of a false king. In the lightening dawn, the slack-limbed, sightless bodies of those who aided us sway as we pass. The voiceless, lifeless men, women and children who dared to share our questioning of the king’s wisdom gape blindly at our passing.
  We will join them soon; our useless lives cut short, our fruitless existence ended in ignominy.
  My throat grows tight. How have we come to this?

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About the author

When Judith Arnopp began to write professionally there was no question as to which genre to choose. A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds an honours degree in English and Creative writing, and a Masters in Medieval Studies, both from the University of Wales, Lampeter. Judith writes both fiction and non-fiction, working full-time from her home overlooking Cardigan Bay in Wales where she crafts novels based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women from all roles of life, prostitutes to queens. Her novels include: The Beaufort Chronicles: the life of Lady Margaret Beaufort (three book series); A Song of Sixpence; Intractable Heart; The Kiss of the Concubine; The Winchester Goose; The Song of Heledd; The Forest Dwellers, and Peaceweaver. Her latest book, Sisters of Arden, is told from the perspective of a novitiate nun during the dissolution of the monasteries. Her non-fiction articles feature in various historical anthologies and magazines. Find out more at Judith's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @JudithArnopp