Today I’m pleased to welcome author Catherine Hokin to the blog. Catherine’s novel, Blood and Roses was published by Yolk Publishing on 13 January 2016. Here Catherine talks about how she first came across Margaret of Anjou.
The Wars of the Roses: that’s a well-mined seam that’s surely been well and truly ‘done’? That’s usually the second comment when I mention that my debut novel Blood and Roses is firmly set against the background of this so bloody conflict – the first is ‘I wish I had the time to write a book’ but no writer ever responds to that one with anything other than an inner scream.
My response? No period of history is ever truly ‘done’ until all the voices have been heard: for the Wars of the Roses, as for so much of History, it is the female voice that is too often silent or misheard. Step forward Margaret of Anjou.
Who was she? The facts are well-known: she was born in the Duchy of Lorraine in 1430 and married to Henry VI of England in 1445; she had one son, Edward, born after 8 years of marriage and dead in battle at 18; she was a key figure on the Lancastrian side in the dynastic conflicts of the fifteenth century that the Victorians rather romantically christened the Wars of the Roses; she died in gentile poverty in 1482. That’s a life but it isn’t a person which is where my search for Margaret began.
I first met Margaret when I was 12. My father ran a war gaming club (in the non-virtual days when this involved a sand table) and all the members were obsessed with the Wars of the Roses, I think some of them thought it was still going on. They also shared a loathing for Margaret of Anjou which fascinated me – how could one woman who lived so long ago still rile men so much? As a contrary teenager, I was hooked.
My father was also a Shakespeare fanatic so I got caught up in that to. Anyone who knows their Shakespeare knows that, in the spirit of propaganda, he reviled Margaret in his work, depicting her as “a foul wrinkled witch’ and a ‘hateful with’red hag.” By this point my blood was up – how could such an over-wrought characterisation have become a shorthand for a woman contemporaries described as a “great and strong-laboured woman”? How did that fit with Shakespeare’s portrayal of her wandering round court clutching the severed head of her supposed lover the Duke of Suffolk like a medieval revved-up Mrs Rochester?
Clearly there was a lot more to this woman and, following a History degree which included a study of the use of political propaganda against women in the Middle Ages, she became a scratch I needed to itch. Then life got in the way and the scratch took 30 years to get to…
What did I find when I began to dig? A politically astute, well-educated woman trapped as a Queen Consort – her role was essentially to be an intercessor and a peacemaker which is all very well except she was married to the weak, ill and ineffectual King Henry VI at a time when the English Crown was very much the spoils of war. She was perfectly able to rule in an England that would not countenance her doing so and became the scapegoat for her husband’s failings.
That’s one aspect of my Margaret but there is also another: she was a mother, a strong woman trying to turn a boy she loved fiercely into a strong man she had to let go. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that I found my Margaret when I had a son of 18, the age hers was when he died – a key relationship too often portrayed in a sinister light and badly in need of a redress.
My Margaret is a strong, deeply intelligent women driven by ambition and perfectly capable of manipulating circumstances to her own advantage. I’ve been looking for her for a long time and am delighted that my publisher recognised that a revision was due and trusted me to do it. I hope you will be as fascinated by her as I have become and that the voice I have found for her rings as true for you as it continues to do for me.
About the book:
The English Crown – a bloodied, restless prize.
The one contender strong enough to hold it? A woman. Margaret of Anjou: a French Queen in a hostile country, born to rule but refused the right, shackled to a King lost in a shadow-land.
When a craving for power becomes a crusade, when two rival dynasties rip the country apart in their desire to rule it and thrones are the spoils of a battlefield, the stakes can only rise. And if the highest stake you have is your son?
You play it.”
You can buy the book here.
About Catherine Hokin
Catherine is a Glasgow-based author with a degree in History from Manchester University. After years of talking about it, she finally started writing seriously about 3 years ago, researching and writing her debut novel, Blood and Roses, which will be published in January 2016 by Yolk Publishing. The novel tells the story of Margaret of Anjou and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses, exploring the relationship between Margaret and her son and her part in shaping the course of the bloody political rivalry of the fifteenth century. About a year ago, Catherine also started writing short stories – she was recently 3rd prize winner in the 2015 West Sussex Writers Short Story Competition and a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition. She regularly blogs as Heroine Chic, casting a historical, and often hysterical, eye over women in history, popular culture and life in general.
Social media links: https://www.catherinehokin.com/