Hailed as a "gripping biography" by Philippa Gregory, as well as a "vivid and fascinating account" that "brings Katherine Willoughby deservedly to the forefront of the Tudor age" by Alison Weir, I have no doubt that many of my readers will want to dive headfirst into this book.
Without further ado, let's turn to the book itself and read an exciting excerpt...
Over to you, David!
Richard Bertie, Katherine’s second husband, left England in June 1554. It is unclear if he returned at intervals during the remainder of the year, but at some point Katherine moved from Grimsthorpe to the Barbican, her London town house, in readiness for her escape. They confided their plans to a trusted friend ‘an old gentleman [servant] called master Robert Cranwell, whom master Berty had specially provided for that purpose’, and on New Year’s Day, ‘betwixt four and five of the clock in the morning’, Katherine emerged into the chill darkness carrying little Suzan in her arms. She was dressed as a merchant’s wife and was accompanied by Cranwell and six servants who had been told of her plans only at the last moment – Foxe says they had been chosen for their ‘meanness … for she doubted the best would not adventure that fortune with her’.
Their leaving was not without incident. The inevitable hustle and bustle roused a man named Atkinson, whom Foxe describes as ‘a herald, keeper of her [Katherine’s] house’ who came to investigate. Whoever Atkinson was, Katherine did not trust him, and in her haste was compelled to leave behind a ‘mail’ (a pack or bag) containing clothes for her daughter and ‘a milk-pot with milk’. She quickly ordered the five men with her to go ahead to Lion Quay, between London Bridge and Billingsgate, from where they intended to set sail, while she and her two women concealed themselves in the shadows of the nearby Charterhouse. Atkinson peered out from the gate of the Barbican, saw nothing but the abandoned ‘mail’, and decided to take it back into the house to investigate its contents. Katherine breathed a sigh of relief and began her journey into the unknown.
The first problem they encountered was that neither Katherine nor her women knew how to reach their intended destination. But they had a stroke of good fortune. Foxe says that ‘she [Katherine] took the way that led to Finsbury-field, and the others walked the city streets as they lay open before them, till by chance, more than discretion, they met all suddenly together a little within Moorgate, from whence they passed directly to Lion-quay’.
At Leigh, Cranwell arranged for Katherine to stay with a friend, a London merchant named William Gosling who had a married daughter who was not known in the area. Gosling simply informed the curious that his ‘daughter’ had come to pay him a visit, and Katherine took the opportunity to replace the necessities she had left behind at the Barbican. What arrangements had been made to accommodate the other members of the party is not stated, but at some point Bertie made his appearance and was reunited with his wife. Foxe says that they were obliged to spend their last night in England at an inn in the town, where they were ‘again almost betrayed, yet notwithstanding, by God’s good working she escaped that hazard’.
Extract taken from David Baldwin’s new book, Henry VIII’s Last Love (published by Amberley, 2015). The book is available to buy from all good bookstores, as well as online at the Amberley website, Amazon and The Book Depository.
Huge thanks to author David Baldwin and Amy Greaves from Amberley Publishing for the opportunity for The Tudor Enthusiast to host today's blog tour!
It's been an honor, and I hope my readers have enjoyed the excerpt. The publication date is 15 March, so keep an eye out for it!
Happy reading, Tudor Enthusiasts!