Isn’t it great when you suddenly discover a fascinating historical figure you really know nothing about? It doesn’t happen very often, so when it does it’s quite special – and often unexpected. My current WIP is set during the time of Katherine of Valois (the ‘forbidden queen’ of Anne O’Brien’s latest novel), so I’m very familiar with her story. No, the big surprise was her hero, the impressive Owen Tudor, (or Owain ap Maredudd ap Tewdwr as he would have preferred to be called) who of course gave his name to the Tudor dynasty. (There is a theory that the name ‘Tudor’ was actually a typo made by an English scribe who didn’t know any better. We will never know if that is true, although I did read that Henry VIII never described himself as a ‘Tudor’).
The awful way King Henry V treated his new wife has been well documented but there was great secrecy about Katherine’s relationship with Owen Tudor. This makes it all the more interesting, as we do have to ‘fill in the gaps’. Anne O’Brien’s relaxed style does this sensitively and convincingly through the eyes of Queen Katherine. Tricked by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester into a life of widowhood, she slowly becomes aware of the real man behind the role of ‘Master of the Household’. (His real title may have even been ‘clerk of the wardrobe’!)
There is a fascinating postscript at the end of the book where Anne discusses her inspiration for writing it. She says “I decided that Katherine deserves a re-evaluation. I hope I have done her justice in writing The Forbidden Queen, allowing us to see the woman behind the façade.” Anne has certainly achieved that and more. I will admit to feeling quite emotional at the end of her amazing story. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to understand what life may have been like for this remarkable woman.
Visit Anne O'Brien's website http://www.anneobrienbooks.com/