Whom did you find the most interesting character in The Queen’s Confidante?
For me the most interesting character was Elizabeth of York, wife and queen to Henry VII, and mother of Prince Arthur.
I thought that the way that Elizabeth was portrayed in this novel was interesting – obsessed with what happened to her brothers, the Princes in the Tower, and determined to remember them.
The historical record doesn’t tell us much about what the Tudors thought about the fate of the Princes, aside from an insinuation that Richard III killed them.
I thought that Elizabeth’s love for and obsession with finding out what happened to her brothers and her son was admirable, and it also showed a softer side to Henry VII in the end.
Who would ever expect tyrannical Henry VIII to have had such a beautiful, loving mother? Do you know of children who have turned out very differently from their parents, in personality, values, and general attitude toward life? Does a parent really have so little influence over his or her children?
I think, had Elizabeth of York still been alive after 1503, she would have had a more marked influence on the future Henry VIII – her gentler ways would have softened Henry VII’s harsher approach.
I think a lot of children turn out very differently from their parents’ – I know I am very different from both of my parents, but not necessarily in a good or a bad way, just different.
A lot of what makes the child the adult they become is the environment they grow up in – if you grow up in a loving environment you are more likely to be loving to other people.
Henry VIII was loving like his mother, but his love had a darker edge and his love turned to hate, especially with Anne Boleyn.
If Prince Arthur had lived, how might English history have turned out differently?
Without Henry VIII having taken the throne, there likely wouldn’t have been an English Reformation, no Bloody Mary or Elizabeth I, and the English royal family probably wouldn’t have descended through the Stuart line.
Some historians suggest that Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur were in love and that their marriage was consummated and, if this were true, Katherine may well have had a son as well as daughters, without her seven-year widowhood affecting her fertility, as has also been suggested.
England might have entered a new golden age, as Henry VII had hoped, and the Tudor dynasty might have survived, but this is one of the great what-ifs of history – we might not have had the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution or countless other events which now define English history.
What early hints do you see that the boy Shakespeare will become the writing genius? What sorts of traits do you see that indicate particular talents or tendencies?
The boy was very imaginative and determined to live life to the full with his friends – these experiences have given him something to draw on.
The boy Shakespeare seems to have wanted experiences – he led the others in the group astray, into trouble, or doing things they wouldn’t otherwise have done.
Shakespeare seems very determined and ambitious – he doesn’t want to stay at home with a family, he wants more out of life.
Traits like being charismatic lend themselves to actors and public speakers, whereas being bookish and hard-working are more academic traits, and being adventurous and a bit of a daredevil lends itself to travel, where imagination lends itself to writing and art.
Over the years, some Shakespeare critics and scholars have argued that it would be impossible for a boy with Shakespeare’s small-town grammar-school background to write the brilliant plays he did with all their diversity and depth. Do you think such a mind could come from a rural background?
Good writing comes from experience and imagination – being able to use your experiences and develop them with imagination into a storyline.
You also need to understand people and emotions and, according to what Shakespeare and his family undergo in this story, it is certainly believable that he had experiences he could draw on.
I don’t think background necessarily precludes being successful, even in the 16th century, where background was more important than it is today.
Wolsey was the son of a butcher and Cromwell the son of a blacksmith, and they were two of the most powerful men in the realm – it also depends on luck and knowing the right people.
Although Will and Anne Whateley are in love from their early days, they disagree on many things. Do you think this weakens or strengthens their relationship? Can two strong-minded people who disagree on key issues really get along over the years? In love relationships, do opposites really attract?
Some disagreements can strengthen a relationship because constant agreement can be boring and disagreements mean you’re comfortable expressing feelings to that person.
I think opposites do attract but don’t always last as you need something in common in order to fully engage and talk to each other.
Strong-minded people can get along over the years, and often the big clashes result in passionate reconciliations which can make up for the negative parts.
Opposites do attract because people like what they see as the exotic and unusual rather than that which is familiar to them.