The Coffee Pot Book Club Blog tour: A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years
A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years
Book one of The Henrician Chronicle
By Judith Arnopp
‘A king must have sons: strong, healthy sons to rule after him.’
On the unexpected death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, his brother, Henry, becomes heir to the throne of England. The intensive education that follows offers Henry a model for future excellence; a model that he is doomed to fail.
On his accession, he chooses his brother’s widow, Catalina of Aragon, to be his queen. Together they plan to reinstate the glory of days of old and fill the royal nursery with boys.
But when their first-born son dies at just a few months old, and subsequent babies are born dead or perish in the womb, the king’s golden dreams are tarnished.
Christendom mocks the virile prince. Catalina’s fertile years are ending yet all he has is one useless living daughter, and a baseborn son.
He needs a solution but stubborn to the end, Catalina refuses to step aside.
As their relationship founders, his eye is caught by a woman newly arrived from the French court. Her name is Anne Boleyn.
A Matter of Conscience: the Aragon Years offers a unique first-person account of the ‘monster’ we love to hate and reveals a man on the edge; an amiable man made dangerous by his own impossible expectation
Richmond 1511 – Henry and Catherine revel in the delight of their newborn son.
In the weeks that follow, Kate and I gloat over the miracle that is our son. He is small yet lusty, his lungs are strong and at times his voice is alarmingly loud.
“Henry,” I murmur as I run a finger over the soft red down of hair and put my face close to his. I wonder if he can see me.He blinks slowly, squinting up at me as if trying to remember where we met.
“I am Father,” I tell him. “Your sire, your king but you will learn to call me ‘Father.’
It is a word I long to hear on a boy’s lips. Once the tedium of his infant days are over there is so much I will teach him. He must excel at everything, as I do. He must learn to be better than his peers at learning, at sport and on the dance floor. He must be a great diplomat, a poet, and musician.
I lift him into my arms and whisper stories of King Arthur. The tales my mother told are still ripe in my mind. Kate watches with a smile from her seat at the window as my son and I stroll back and forth across the chamber floor.
Young Henry, lulled by my gentle tones, has fallen asleep, a trickle of drool collects in the crook of my arm, but I do not halt the telling of the legends. I have no wish to return him to his nurse. I want never to put him down.
In his sleep, he snuffles and makes sucking noises that bring Kate to peer over my shoulder.
“He is very much like you, Henry,” she says. “So sweet, so precious.”
I smother a laugh.
“Nobody has called me ‘sweet’ or ‘precious’ in a long time.”
She taps me playfully.
“Do not tease me, Henry, or I shall sulk.”
A burst of laughter escapes me, startling the baby. He opens his mouth, exposes his milk coated tongue and mews in annoyance before slumbering again.
“You should lie him down,” Kate says, and reluctantly I hand him to his nurse. As we watch her tuck him firmly in his cot, I take my wife’s hand. We repair to the window seat where the weak winter sunshine warms us through the thick glass.
“I wanted to talk to you, Kate. Now you are churched, I would have you join me when the court moves to Westminster.”
Her face falls, her chin drops.
“I am not yet ready to leave him …” She glances regretfully toward the cradle.
“I know. I know … but you may never be. It is your duty to be at my side. The court has missed you. We shall not be far away and can ride back at any instant. You know of the plans I have made for the joust. It is to honour our son, our heir. His mother must be present.”
She bites her lip, nods again. “You have worked hard on it. Is everything arranged?”
“Yes.” I let go of her hand and lean back, cross my ankles on a stool as I regale her with the details of the tournament.
“And you, as my queen,” I say when I reach the end of a lengthy list, “are to distribute the prizes. They will love you more than ever now you’ve provided England with an heir.”
She sighs but she knows her duty. “Of course, you are right, Henry. I shall instruct my household to make preparation to leave.”
Now that the months of waiting for the heir to be born are over, it seems no time at all. Both Kate and I would like to spend longer with him, but we can make regular visits. It isn’t as if he is far away.
We travel to Westminster a few days later. Kate turning wistfully in her seat every few moments until Richmond Palace disappears around a bend in the river. Her head lowers, she mangles a kerchief in her hands. It is clear she is fighting tears. One of her women picks up a lute and begins to play a merry tune. I turn away, tap my foot and concentrate my attention on the forthcoming joust.
A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies.
She lives on the coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women but more recently is writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself.
Her novels include:
A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years
The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace
The Beaufort Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle
The Beaufort Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle
The King’s Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle
The Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII
A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York
Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Song of Heledd
The Forest Dwellers
Judith is also a founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of Cambria and makes historical garments both for the group and others. She is not professionally trained but through trial, error and determination has learned how to make authentic looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.
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