Heroines of Plantagenet Embers (Guest Post)

Heroines of Plantagenet Embers

By Samantha Wilcoxson for Tudors Dynasty

A writer puts a little bit of themselves into every character they create. Maybe we are not as adventurous, devout, or charismatic as our beloved characters, but we wish we were, and somewhere deep inside us the potential is there. Same goes for the darker sides of our characters. Both the best and worst of us gets poured into our characters. I find it to be a satisfying release of emotions to transfer my deepest feelings into the ladies on the page.

The heroines of Plantagenet Embers are each as unique in my books as the historical figures they are based on were in real life, but I have reasons to love each of them. People are so multidimensional that it is easy to connect with some aspect of a person’s personality, if we are only willing to try.

Historical figures cannot be divided into heroes and villains. Complex people who lived varied lives, loved, and fought for what they thought was right existed on all sides of any historical controversy or war. It is those deep emotions and intricate personalities that I strive to explore in my novels.

When I decided to write about Elizabeth of York, I did not intend on creating a trilogy. At the time, I was simply drawn to the Plantagenet princess who, through her unique blend of quiet strength, selflessness, and piety, became the first Tudor queen. I connected with Elizabeth through her love of her children and country and her willingness to sacrifice her own desires for the good of others. She was a center of peace in turbulent times. I wished I could be as devout and loyal as Elizabeth was, but I feel like writing about her helped make me a better person.

During the course of writing about Elizabeth, her cousin, Margaret Pole, captured my attention in a way she had not before. I knew the story of the little girl whose father had been executed by his brother, but I had never carefully thought of the roller coaster ride of emotions that Margaret’s life must have been. I am drawn to an emotive tale and could not resist Margaret’s. She did not share Elizabeth’s position or submissiveness. Losing her husband at a relatively young age, Margaret became the matriarch of her family and struggled to balance loyalty to the new Tudor regime with ensuring her children’s positions in life. Margaret is independent in a way that I am not, but she strived to do God’s will and protect her children no matter what the cost. Her life was defined by high points that most of us will never reach and low points that I hope never to experience. Writing about her created waves of emotions within me that I hope I effectively shared with my readers.

However, nothing could compare with the storm of emotions that I went through when writing about Queen Mary I. I understand that some readers will never be able to think of her as anything other than Bloody Mary, but I was surprised to find that I felt the strongest connection to Mary. Into Mary’s tragic life I could pour every disappointment and hurt I had ever experienced. When she expressed to Reginald Pole that she has never felt she was first in anyone’s life, I had tears streaming down my face. I longed for her to receive the love and affection that I knew was not coming. My heart hurt for her in a way it never had for Elizabeth or Margaret. Maybe it was that Mary never even had children to love, while Elizabeth and Margaret at least had their families to take comfort in regardless of what else came into their lives. There are several passages of Mary’s story that I cannot read without crying. She just captivated my heart. I admire her faith, even if that faith led to terrible things being done in her name, but most of all she moved me to sympathy in a way few other people or fictional characters ever have.

As you have probably discerned, I do not always look closely at the big historical events occurring during my heroines lives unless they were physically present when they happened. My goal is to expose the personal side of the story and put my reader through the same ups and downs that these women experienced. I want readers’ heart to flutter when Elizabeth first realizes she can love Henry Tudor. I want them to feel the air crushed out of their lungs when Margaret’s oldest son is executed, and I want them to feel their heart squeezed at Mary’s defeat and desperation when she realizes she is not pregnant.

History is about so much more than dates and battles, and these women have amazing stories to share. It is sometimes difficult to remember that the historical figures we admire and discuss with such passion were living, breathing people rather than storybook characters. If I can make these ladies who died long ago feel alive to my readers, I consider my job well done.

Author the Author:

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Samantha Wilcoxson is the author of the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy. An incurable bibliophile and sufferer of wanderlust, she lives in Michigan with her husband and three teenagers. She lives in Michigan with her husband and three children. You can connect with Samantha at SamanthaWilcoxson.BlogSpot.com or on Twitter @Carpe_Librum.

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Surviving Letters of the Countess of Salisbury

Countess of Salisbury

We all know the tragic end of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. If you are new to Tudor history I’d highly recommend reading the guest article by Alan Freer called, “The Last Plantagenet” to get yourself better acquainted with her life, and grizzly execution.

Margaret was the daughter of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence. George was the brother of both King Edward IV and Richard III.

This letter is written by Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury to her first cousin, Arthur Plantagenet, the illegitimate son of King Edward IV Lord Lisle in Calais. It was written sometime between 1533-1538; I’m able to determine that since Arthur became Lord Lisle in 1533 and Margaret was arrested and imprisoned in 1538 – she did not write this letter from the Tower of London.

It appears to be mostly pleasantries between two cousins and some discussion about a Robert Baker that Margaret appears to know and Lord Lisle appointed him into the King’s service in Calais.

Mine own good cousin,

In my hearty manner I recommend me unto you, and to my lady your wife, being glad to hear of your good health; praying you, that where my friend Richard Baker is by your favor appointed to the king’s service in Calais, it may please you to be good lord unto him, and the rather for my sake, in all such things as you may do him favour therein; for I doubt not but that you shall find him an honest man, and meet to do the king service. And thus I pray Jesu preserve you in good health, and prosperous to His pleasure.

At Bysham, the 6th day of March.

By your loving cousin,

Margaret Salisbury


Bisham Abbey Manor House - WyrdLight.com / CC BY-SA 3.0
Bisham Abbey Manor House – WyrdLight.com / CC BY-SA 3.0

Quite Possibly the Only Other Surviving Letter from Margaret, Countess of Salisbury

Here is another correspondence between Margaret and her son, Reginald from July 1536 – this is the only other letter that I’m aware of that survives. The letter was a heavily damaged copy and you’ll notice the areas that were unreadable. I included his letter so you could her interaction with her son.

Reginald Pole to the Countess of Salisbury (his mother)

Most humbly desiring your ladyship’s blessing. And, Madam, I doubt [not] but your ladyship continually desiring my com[ing ho]me, and speciall[y] at this time, having firm [ho]pe that it should [in] a few days come to pass [th]at you should [see] me there presently, as the b[ea]rer hereof, my [ser]vant, did inform me to be your w[or]ds at his departing from your ladyship, tru[st]ing that he was sent for that purpose to bri[ng] me home; now that my return doth not fo[llow] according to your expectation, the more, I doubt not, greve it woll be to you, and marvel both, that I do not come.” Must put her, however, in remembrance of her old promise to God touching him from his childish years, “that ever you had given me utterly unto God. And though you had so done with all your children, yet in me you had so given all right from you and possession utterly of me that you never took any care to provide for my living nor otherwise, as you did for other, but committed all to God, to whom you had given me. This promise now, Madam, in my [Maister]es name I require of you to maintain, [the wh]iche you cannot keep nor make good if y[ou] now beginne to care for me. Whan you see [me] . . . . . . . complayne of my Maistre, [th]an were [it] tyme for you to care for me; b[ut] afore [that] tyme you do God wrong if y[ou] . . . . . . . . . wiche cannot be without a certa[yne doubt] of the provident favor of Him towa[rds me to] whom you have given me. Therefore . . . . . Madam, let not this injurie be ever found [in y]ou towards my Master and yours both, specially . . . eng this testimony of me the servant, that [I ha]d never cause in my life to make the . . . . complaint, being, in comparison, infinitely [better] provided for in all parties than I was [worthi]e or could desire, never feeling from [child]wod, syns that I knew who was my verie [Ma]stre and Lord, the least displeasure, but [that] I had a thousand weight of comfort furthwith f[ollow]eng. Wherefore, what cause I have to have s[uch] confidence of His like goodness in all that may h[app]en the time to come your ladyship may hereby s[ee]. So that if you woll enjoy in me any part of that comfort God sendeth, the readiest way is, putting all care aside of me, let my Master and me alone; I mean this, not intermit the least care of mind for me, knowing to what master you have given me; but both touching yourself and me both, commit all to His goodness, as I doubt not your ladyship will, and shall be to me the greatest comfort I can have of you.

Reply from Countess of Salisbury to her Son

Here is Margaret’s reply to the above letter from her son. It is noted that this letter appears to be a copy.

Son Reginald,” I send you God’s blessing and mine, though my trust to have comfort in you is turned to sorrow. Alas that I, for your folly, should receive from my sovereign lord “such message as I have late done by your brother.” To me as a woman, his Highness has shown such mercy and pity as I could never deserve, but that I trusted my children’s services would express my duty. And now, to see you in his Grace’s indignation,—”trust me, Reginald, there went never the death of thy father or of any child so nigh my heart.” Upon my blessing I charge thee to take another way and serve our master, as thy duty is, unless thou wilt be the confusion of thy mother. You write of a promise made by you to God,—”Son, that was to serve God and thy prince, whom if thou do not serve with all thy wit, with all thy power, I know thou can not please God. For who hath brought you up and maintained you to learning but his Highness?” Will pray God to give him grace to serve his prince truly or else to take him to his mercy.


Letters of Royal and Illustrious Women of Great Britain, Volume 3, page 91

Letters between Reginald and Margaret: ‘Henry VIII: July 1536, 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 11, July-December 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1888), pp. 30-45. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol11/pp30-45 [accessed 19 August 2016].

For further reading from tudorsdynasty.com about Margaret, Countess of Salisbury see below:

The Last Plantagenet

3 Generations: Plantagenet Women

Margaret Pole: Short Video History

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

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Margaret Pole: Short Video History

I found a short 5-minute video on YouTube called, “Lady Margaret” – about the life of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. It’s very entertaining and educational at the same time, please take a minute to check it out as it was created by Historic Royal Palaces. It touches base on the Wars of the Roses, the impact she had on Princess Mary’s (later Queen Mary I) life, her son Reginald Pole’s betrayal of the King and her ultimate execution.

Possibly Margaret Pole
Possibly Margaret Pole
Margaret’s son, Cardinal Reginald Pole
lady pole vid cap
Screen cap from “Lady Margaret”

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

My fascination with Margaret Pole began after watching The Tudors television series.  Margaret Pole’s role in the show was minimal and only emphasized her death.  I immediately started to do research on Margaret Plantagenet – to learn about her life. I also thoroughly enjoyed Philippa Gregory’s book, The King’s Curse, which is historical fiction about her life.

Unknown woman thought to be Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

Margaret Plantagenet was born in August 1473, to George Plantagenet, Duke Clarence and his wife Isabel Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick – the “Kingmaker.”

Edward IV, Margaret’s uncle, had a complicated relationship with his brother the Duke of Clarence; George attempted to usurp the throne from his brother with the help of the “Kingmaker” – they would not succeed. After several acts against his brother and his reign, the King could no longer ‘turn a cheek’ to his brother’s actions and had his brother executed. George was privately executed at the Tower of London in 1478. The story goes that he was drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine – his choice of execution.

I often ask myself, why would a son of York switch sides in the Wars of the Roses to take the throne from his brother? The only answer I can come up with is jealously. If the historical fiction book, The White Queen has any truth to it it probably didn’t help that his mother, Cecily Neville hated Elizabeth Woodville and wanted to name her son Edward illegitimate. This would open the throne for George.

Two years prior to the execution of her father, at the age of three, Margaret lost her mother Isabel who was thought to have died from child bed fever. The Duke of Clarence blamed a lady in waiting (Ankarette Twynyho) of murdering his wife by poison and had her executed.  Edward IV would later give a full pardon to her because of the unjust execution.

Ankarette’s grandson Roger Twynyho petitioned Edward IV:

“That whereas the said Ankarette on Saturday, 12 April, 17 Edward IV (i.e.1477), was in her manor at Cayford (i.e. Keyford, Somerset) and Richard Hyde late of Warwick, gentleman, and Roger Strugge late of Bekehampton, co. Somerset, towker, with divers riotous persons to the number of fourscore by the command of George, duke of Clarence, came to Cayforde about two of the clock after noon and entered her house and carried her off the same day to Bath and from thence on the Sunday following to Circeter(i.e. Cirencester), co. Gloucester, and from thence to Warwick, whither they brought her on the Monday following about eight of the clock in the afternoon, which town of Warwick is distant from Cayforde seventy miles, and then and there took from her all her jewels, money and goods and also in the said duke’s behalf, as though he had used king’s power, commanded Thomas Delalynde, esquire, and Edith his wife, daughter of the said Ankarette, and their servants to avoid from the town of Warwick and lodge them at Strattforde upon Aven that night, six miles from thence, and the said duke kept Ankarette in prison unto the hour of nine before noon on the morrow, to wit, the Tuesday after the closing of Pasche [i.e. Easter], and then caused her to be brought to the Guildhall at Warwick before divers of the justices of the peace in the county then sitting in sessions and caused her to be indicted by the name of Ankarette Twynneowe, late of Warwick, widow, late servant of the duke and Isabel his wife, of having at Warwick on 10 October, 16 Edward IV., given to the said Isabel a venomous drink of ale mixed with poison, of which the latter sickened until the Sunday before Christmas, on which day she died, and the justices arraigned the said Ankarette and a jury appeared and found her guilty and it was considered that she should be led from the bar there to the gaol of Warwick and from thence should be drawn through the town to the gallows of Myton and hanged till she were dead, and the sheriff was commanded to do execution and so he did, which indictment, trial and judgment were done and given within three hours of the said Tuesday, and the jurors for fear gave the verdict contrary to their conscience, in proof whereof divers of them came to the said Ankarette in remorse and asked her forgiveness, in consideration of the imaginations of the said duke and his great might, the unlawful taking of the said Ankarette through three several shires, the inordinate hasty process and judgement, her lamentable death and her good disposition, the king should ordain that the record, process, verdict and judgement should be void and of no effect, but that as the premises were done by the command of the said duke the said justices and sheriff and the under-sheriff and their ministers should not be vexed. The answer of the king was: Soit fait come il est desire (“Let it be done as the petitioner requests”)”.

Isabel Neville
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence