The Lady in the Tower: Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour.

Elizabeth St John has brought the Stuart Court vividly to life. She weaves together the known facts of Lucy’s life with colourful scenes of fictional imagination, drawing on innocent romance and bleak deception to create a believable heroine and an intriguing plot.” Historic Novel Society Book Review 

“The Lady of the Tower is a beautifully produced novel with a well-crafted story that will keep you both engaged and entertained. A joy to read. Thank you for sharing your world with us.” 

Writers Digest 24th Annual Book Awards

London, 1609. When Lucy St.John, a beautiful highborn orphan at the court of King James, is seduced by the Earl of Suffolk, she never imagines the powerful enemy she creates in his beloved sister, the Countess of Rochester. Or that her own sister Barbara would betray her and force Lucy to leave the court in disgrace. Spirited, educated, and skilled in medicine and precious remedies, Lucy fights her way back into society, and through an unexpected love match, becomes mistress of the Tower of London. 

Living inside the walls of the infamous prison, she defies plague, political intrigues and tragic executions to tend to aristocratic prisoners and criminals alike. Now married into the immensely powerful Villiers family, Barbara unites with the king’s favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, to raise the fortunes of Lucy and her family to dizzying heights. But with great wealth comes treachery, leaving Lucy to fight for her survival—and her honor—in a world of deceit and debauchery. 

Elizabeth St.John’s critically acclaimed debut novel tells the true story of her ancestress Lucy through her family’s surviving diaries, letters, and court papers. Lucy’s personal friendships with historical figures such as Sir Walter Raleigh and the Stuart kings brings a unique perspective to the history of seventeenth century England.  

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Chapter 26

The Tower of London

The gatehouse itself was an intricately worked red-brick structure, surrounded by cannons and well-guarded. Although there were many that morning who traveled through the gate’s arch, none were there to stay, and I faltered in my steps as the warders escorted me forward. The guards stood to attention as I drew near, their pikes tall by their sides, their eyes straight ahead. Their respect signified I was to them their new mistress, for inside the Tower, I would be as their lady. The responsibility was formidable. I hoped that Allen’s years of command in Ireland would teach me the protocols of managing these men. I carefully inclined my head slightly, without appearing too eager or aloof, as I entered their rows.

Passing through the thick defensive walls, I was reminded of Castle Cornet. Tears threatened to spill as I compared that safe fortress that had welcomed me with balmy air and sweet Anne by my side to this hideous place of captivity. I wished with all my heart to have Sir Thomas walk forward to greet me. I suffered that those days were lost to me. I was singularly on my own here, for even Allen had not seen the need to accompany me, he being too concerned of the protocols of his position.

Ahead stretched a lane teeming with people of all sorts. I could now see the immensity of the inner-ward walls to my left, broken only by the curve of towers and the occasional archer’s hole cleft in the stone. On my right lay Traders’ Gate, and there was much activity as a steady stream of goods was brought in from the river through the raised portcullis. Of recent times, the name had slipped to Traitors’ Gate, and this served to remind me of the multiple purposes of this citadel. All within served different masters, whether gaoler or minter, palace guard or keeper.

As I hesitated again, a cacophony like none other reverberated around the bricks and echoed from the stone walls. It resounded again and again and was joined by other screeches and bellowing. I was beset from all sides with such noise that I could not hear my own trembling voice. A warder looked at me and broke rank to guide me to the side path.

“’Tis only the Barbaries, my lady.”

“What are they?” The noise had no description, no similarity to anything I had heard before.

“The lions, my lady. ’Tis their roaring you hear, and it upsets the others in the menagerie.”

I drew myself together and recovered what I could of my dignity. I had forgotten the Tower also housed lions and other exotic creatures given to the kings and queens for many centuries, and that the tradition continued strong with James. Now that I knew what the noise was, it was less fearsome but still chilled my very marrow.

A shout went up ahead. My warders pressed closer as a cavalcade of riders clattered on the stone cobbles, the horses’ hooves striking and sliding over the wet stones. The creatures were magnificent. As the dozen or so riders cut a swathe through the crowd of pedestrians, people cowed, unwilling to get trampled by the force of men. The guards surrounded me to prevent me from being pressed by the people or injured by the horses, and I was assaulted by a further wave of noise, shouts, and clatter.

“His Lord the Earl of Suffolk,” shouted the guard on my right, flinging an arm out to shield me from the plunging hooves. “Visits ’is sister, ’e does, regular-like.”

I didn’t need the explanation. One look at Theo’s face, blanched with shock as he found me surrounded by warders on my way to the fortress, was enough to twist my heart. He turned in his saddle, his eyes fixed on mine, and made as though to rein back. And then I lost sight of him. The guards escorted me through a small archway cut into the stone, and the walls closed around us.

The Tower was now my home, and in that brief encounter, it was also proven my penance.

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Elizabeth St.John’s critically acclaimed historical fiction novels tell the stories of her ancestors: extraordinary women whose intriguing kinship with England’s kings and queens brings an intimately unique perspective to Medieval, Tudor, and Stuart times.

Inspired by family archives and residences from Lydiard Park to the Tower of London, Elizabeth spends much of her time exploring ancestral portraits, diaries, and lost gardens. And encountering the occasional ghost. But that’s another story.

Living between California, England, and the past, Elizabeth is the International Ambassador for The Friends of Lydiard Park, an English charity dedicated to conserving and enhancing this beautiful centuries-old country house and park. As a curator for The Lydiard Archives, she is constantly looking for an undiscovered treasure to inspire her next novel.

Elizabeth’s books include her trilogy, The Lydiard Chronicles, set in 17th Century England during the Civil War, and her newest release, The Godmother’s Secret, which explores the medieval mystery of the missing Princes in the Tower of London.

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