Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Post By Steven Veerapen, Author of Succession: An Elizabethan Spy Thriller

4 May 2020

Special Guest Post By Steven Veerapen, Author of Succession: An Elizabethan Spy Thriller

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

1603: The Virgin Queen is dying. She has yet to nominate an heir. The crown looks set to fall to James of Scotland. But it is far from inevitable. Gowrie, a sinister Scottish traitor, has arrived in England. On him is a document containing a shocking secret 
that will compromise King James.

We all know that Elizabeth I, England’s Virgin Queen, died childless, and that her throne passed to her Scottish cousin, James VI. However, it’s often easy to forget that people at the time didn’t know how smoothly the succession would go. Throughout Elizabeth’s reign, her ministers and parliamentarians had pressed her to name a successor. To her dying breath, she refused to do so. One man – her principal secretary Sir Robert Cecil – took it upon himself to manage the succession, and his choice was (unsurprisingly for a man of his canny wiles) the leading candidate: James VI. As an experienced king, a Protestant, and a family man, James seemed like the obvious choice. As a foreigner, the ruler of England’s ancient enemy, and the son of the infamous Mary Queen of Scots, he did not.

In writing the novel, I had the great joy of exploring not just the Elizabethan period, but specifically the harried last few weeks of the queen’s life. In doing so, I was able to draw on material that had come to the fore when writing Elizabeth and Essex: the queen, I discovered, was not painted in white lead; the cultural ghost of Essex loomed large in the popular consciousness; Sir Robert Cecil had a number of irons in the fire; Arbella Stuart, James’s cousin, was even then causing headaches; and Walter Raleigh was, uncharacteristically, trying to keep out of the limelight. It was a period of intense fear at home and intense interest abroad. As Elizabeth had reigned for nearly forty-five years, few could even remember the dangers that haunted an unclear succession.

The plot of Succession is fictional, and it involves the search for a fictional document based on a devastating real-life rumour about James VI. However, I strove throughout to keep the timeline of actual events accurate. History tells us that Elizabeth’s final plunge began after the death of her friend, the Countess of Nottingham, in late February. We know that, when she died in the early hours of the morning in late March, Cecil convened a ‘grand council’ which named James I of England as the new monarch by the time dawn broke. Crisis had been averted. A king was proclaimed throughout London and the regions. The crowns of England and Scotland would be united under a descendant of Henry VII. Yet, from the moment her decline had begun, none could be sure exactly what would happen.

Succession is the story of those tumultuous last few weeks, during which Cecil and his spy, Ned Savage, seek to ensure that when the curtain falls on the age of Elizabeth, it will not bring the country down with it.

Steven Veerapen

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About the Author

Steven Veerapen is a writer of fiction and nonfiction and a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde who specialises in sixteenth-century literature. His first novel was The Queen’s Consort, which focused on Mary Queen of Scots’ infamous husband, Lord Darnley. Steven’s other books include the Simon Danforth trilogy, the Queen’s Spies trilogy, and three non-fiction works: Blood Feud, Elizabeth and Essex, and Slander and Sedition in Elizabethan Law, Speech, and Writing. You can find Steven on Instagram @steven.veerapen.3 and on Goodreads and Twitter @ScrutinEye

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