Steven veerapen

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Top Ten Tudor Troublemakers

In addition to villains, chancers and maligned victims, the Tudor era bore witness to a number of people who caused successive governments all manner of headaches. Here is my rundown of Ten Tudor Troublemakers: the bad boys and girls who caused the Tudor monarchs numerous sleepless nights.

10. Fear of Ejection: Bernardino de Mendoza

In the seventeenth century, Sir Henry Wotton would quip that an ambassador was an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for his country. In the sixteenth, Bernardino de Mendoza would have concurred. Born in about 1540, Mendoza was a seasoned soldier (getting his spurs in the Low Countries) and diplomat, who in 1578 found himself sent to England as Philip II’s Spanish ambassador. His problem was that he was not terribly diplomatic. Further, this was not a posting from which he derived much pleasure, deciding as he did that England was a backwards and uncivilised nation brimming with heretical Protestants. His brief included not only diplomatic duties, but what was then known as ‘spiery’ – and it was this that Mendoza threw himself into with gusto.

The ambassador not only sent despatches back to Spain denigrating Queen Elizabeth and her government, but actively sought the overthrow of both. Indeed, Mendoza appears to have used the post of ambassador not to manage relations between the countries but rather to abuse the privilege of access by learning of and promoting plots against the English crown. His most egregious attempt came with the so-called Throckmorton Plot, whereby the Catholic Sir Francis Throckmorton acted as a channel between continental Catholic powers, supporters of the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots, and Mendoza himself. The plan was that an invasion of England would take place, involving French Guisard forces and a domestic uprising by English Catholics, with Mary being released, Elizabeth being deposed, and Catholicism being restored. The plot was rumbled by Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, in 1584 – and whilst Throckmorton was tortured (and confessed), Mendoza was unceremoniously expelled from England, bringing diplomatic relations between England and Spain to an ignominious close. ‘Tell your mistress,’ Mendoza haughtily informed the Council, ‘that Bernardino de Mendoza was born not to disturb kingdoms but to conquer them!’ After this – the early modern equivalent of an upraised middle finger – he departed for France, where he continued to serve Philip as an ambassador – and where he swore revenge on Elizabeth for daring to eject him. In France, he also continued his subversive, anti-Protestant activities, delighting whenever the chance of causing mischief in England came his way. He lived on until 1604, when James I finally brought Anglo-Spanish hostilities to a close.

9. ‘Content Thyself with thine Estate’: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Surrey has the dubious honour of being the last man executed by the tyrannical Henry VIII. He went to the block in January 1547, just over a week before the king’s death. So ended a colourful life: one which had involved sparkling and innovative poetry, thwarted ambition, and a good dose of naughtiness. As the eldest son of the ultra-loyalist Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Surrey ought to have had a golden career – in his youth, he had even been a boon companion to Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, and he joined his father in putting down the Pilgrimage of Grace in the late 1530s. Where did it all go wrong?

Surrey was, throughout his life, a man of startling contrasts. He was an accomplished literary man: at his best he was a celebrated translator and pioneering sonneteer. However, he was also reportedly rash, wild, and loose-living (traits, of course, generally unheard of in creative writers). His behaviour led to intermittent spells in prison, mandated as a result of his penchant for carousing about the streets of London, smashing windows and jeering at the nonplussed citizens. It is no surprise that he was to be called ‘the most foolish proud boy that is in England’. Moreover, Surrey was disenchanted by the rise of low-ranking men to political office in the wake of the break with Rome (the upwardly mobile Thomas Cromwell being a particular source of distaste to him). His downfall came about by curious means. As Henry’s reign began to wind down and eyes began to turn towards the young Edward VI (and his future government), Surrey was accused of attempting to pimp his sister, Mary, to the decaying sovereign, and of quartering his coat of arms with those of Edward the Confessor (in an apparent statement of ambitious intent). His father fell with him, but Henry’s death would spare old Norfolk; Surrey, however, would die a traitor’s death for his presumption. In Edward’s reign, heads would continue to roll, though not Norfolk’s (the most notable were rather Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, who was preceded by his brother Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour: another outwardly charming bad boy with an unpleasant taste for using women as tools of his ambition).

8. ‘My Norfolk’: Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk

Norfolk, the eldest son of our last entry, Surrey, is something of a sad case. He was, like so many of his class, desperately ambitious and reared with a breath-taking sense of entitlement.Like his father, that entitlement would avail him little and would ultimately cost him his life. Norfolk was not helped, of course, by the fact that he was a vacillating and nervous man, eager for power but habitually cautious and crippled by panic when his actions looked like getting him into serious trouble. Nor did his Catholic sympathies do much to endear him to the Protestant Elizabeth I, who took the throne in 1558.

Despite his father’s execution, Norfolk’s courtly career was not seriously impacted. His presence at the courts of Mary I and Elizabeth I is notable; indeed, as Earl Marshal he was tasked with organising the 1559 coronation festivities for Elizabeth. However, he had inherited from his father a sense of discontentment and a dislike of lower-ranking men at court. Unfortunately, Elizabeth did not share that distaste – and the favour she showed to William Cecil and Lord Robert Dudley only fuelled Norfolk’s sense of grievance. This was exacerbated when he was sent off to the North as Lieutenant-General: a position which Norfolk took as a calculated insult, and one which hampered any ability he might have had to exert direct influence on his sovereign. What really did for him, though, was his entanglement in the affairs of Mary Queen of Scots, who entered England in 1568 seeking support against her rebels and found instead captivity and a show inquiry into the death of her second husband, Lord Darnley. Although Norfolk presided over the inquiry, he soon enough began a tentative courtship with Mary. His goal? To marry the Scottish queen, gain himself a crown, and thus shape Anglo-Scottish affairs according to his own will (or, as he claimed, Elizabeth’s will). Mary, for her part, saw this as a feasible means of escaping her confinement. Elizabeth, however, was furious – especially when a rebellion rose under the earls of Westmorland and Northumberland, who hoped to sweep down from the North and free Mary. Norfolk briefly supported the rising, before switching sides when he saw how badly coordinated it was (a strategy which saw him go unpunished after a spell in the Tower). His scheming was not, however, at an end. Not only did he support the Ridolfi Plot (a Catholic plan to release Mary and place her on Elizabeth’s throne) but his long-distance romance continued apace. Elizabeth and her government watched him with cool detachment, before bringing him to trial in 1572. He was found guilty of treason and, after much pressure, the queen signed his death warrant. Norfolk would be the first traitor Queen Elizabeth executed. He would not be the last.

7. Sartorial Splendour: Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham

In what’s becoming a theme on this list, Buckingham (born in 1478) was his own worst enemy. As a first cousin of Henry VIII, he was the premier peer in England during the early 1500s, and he knew it. In fact, Buckingham not only knew it – he liked to show it, via an army of retainers, a lavish household, and magnificent displays of sartorial splendour. Yet his relationship with the young Henry VIII was uneasy – and it was not helped (though it was not yet entirely broken) when he publicly involved the king in a scandal, wherein Buckingham’s sister Anne was accused of having an affair with Henry’s favourite, Sir William Compton. Buckingham’s problem, throughout his career, was that his prospects never quite reached the dizzying heights to which he felt himself equal. Both Henry VIII and his chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, were aware of this, and attempts were made to bring the dissatisfied duke into the fold; he was encouraged to keep order in the Welsh Marches (which he did with little skill or interest), and he played ceremonial roles at court. Nothing, unfortunately, was quitegood enough – especially as Buckingham was perennially denied access to what would later become the Privy Council: Henry’s inner circle. Possibly apocryphally, it was reported that he made his disenchantment known publicly; when Wolsey had the effrontery to dip his own hands into the bowl of water Buckingham was holding – intended as Henry’s laver – Buckingham flushed … and then in a burst of fury he dumped the water all over the Cardinal’s robes.

The duke’s fall came in the early 1520s, when reports circulated that he had been seeking out prophecies foretelling Henry VIII’s death. His accusers were servants who might or might not have had their own axes to grind. The king, however, examined the witnesses himself and the matter was brought to trial. All proceeded as one might expect, with Buckingham found guilty of treason and executed on Tower Hill. Even now, historians are divided on whether or not the verdict was fair, and whether nor Henry set out to ruin him or simply gave him enough rope before taking advantage of Buckingham’s arrogance. One this is certain, though: from the moment of the duke’s death onwards, Cardinal Wolsey enjoyed splatter-free robes.

6. “The most notable double, treble villain that ever lived!”: Gilbert Gifford

It is often infuriatingly difficult to trace the loyalties of Elizabethan spies. Frequently, these people were employed by multiple masters, and even their employers could never be sure whose ends were really being served. Further, agents were often tasked with ‘projecting’: that is, acting as agents provocateurs in order to draw out (or encourage) potential victims to break out into overt acts of treason. Happily, in the case of Gilbert Gifford (born around 1560), we can be somewhat certain of his loyalties. They lay, until his death in 1590, entirely with the cause of Gilbert Gifford.

The son of a recusant Catholic landowner, Gifford left England in the late 1570s hoping to become a Catholic priest. Unfortunately, the English colleges at both Douai and Rome harboured doubts about him, and he would not be ordained as a deacon until 1585, in Rheims (and he would attain his priesthood in 1587). Thereafter, he began courting the continental agents of Mary Queen of Scots, lavishing promises of returning to England and working for her release. He abandoned this almost as soon as his boots touched Dover; after being arrested, he switched sides and joined the workforce of Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. As he was presumably superficially charming, he was tasked with visiting Mary in her prison at Chartley and lulling her into a false sense of security. This he did, convincing her that a secret channel of communication would be opened, with letters smuggled in and out of Chartley in waterproof pouches hidden in beer barrels. All letters, of course, were being deciphered and read by Walsingham’s men. The door was thus open for the hare-brained Babington Plot, which Walsingham let run until he had firm proof that it aimed at Elizabeth’s life. Gifford, on realising that he might be implicated (the life of spies and double agents never being secure), fled England and left Mary to her entrapment. She would go to the block in February 1587. Later that year, Gifford – now a priest – would be found in a Paris brothel, in bed with a male servant and an unnamed woman. The following year, his activities would be investigated and he would be imprisoned for allegedly working against Catholic interests. He would die, dissolute and broken in health, in 1590: just one of many agents (amongst them Roberto Ridolfi, William Parry, Anthony Standen, Thomas Phelippes,Robert Poley, and probably Christopher Marlowe) who sought to feather their own nests or indulge in a bit of adventure via the cutthroat world of Elizabethan espionage.

5. Black Fast: Mabel Brigge

Mabel Brigge, a widow, seems like an unlikely troublemaker. Born in around 1506, she was a servant who, during the course of her career, worked for a number of employers around Yorkshire. In addition to the odd bit of stealing, her speciality was the ‘Black Fast’, a particularly strict period of fasting in which no food or drink could be consumed during daylight hours, with only one meal taken following prayers after dark. It was popularly believed that such periods of self-denial were not just good for the soul but that, with the power of prayer and self-denial combined, concrete outcomes could be achieved. Brigge did not, however, fast for its own sake nor for her own religious wellbeing; rather, she sold her willingness to fast to those able to pay for spiritual comfort or desired outcomes but unable or unwilling to undertake fasts themselves. In 1537, she was employed to fast by one Isobel Buck (the payment being a half-yard of linen and a peck of wheat), a woman who had recently suffered a miscarriage and thus could not fast herself.

This did not endear Brigge to her steady employer, John Lokkar, who could get little work from a woman enduring hunger pangs and giving her time over to matters of spirituality. In 1538 he accused his quondam servant of having fasted with the intent of killing Henry VIII and the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, bolstering his claim by stating that Brigge had boasted that her magical fasting abilities had once broken a man’s neck. For her part, Brigge claimed that Lokkar had in fact offered her money to support his claims, and that he made them simply to ruin Isobel Buck and her husband (who were accused of being the masterminds behind the devilment). Nevertheless, both Brigge and Buck were tried at York and found guilty. The latter was pardoned but Mabel Brigge would be executed. For a short time, this allegedly sticky-fingered Yorkshire servant managed to wow and horrify England by virtue of an accusation that her powers extended to dictating Henry VIII’s life and death.

4. Mad Maid or Holy Maid? Elizabeth Barton

Thanks to the popularity of Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” trilogy, the story of Elizabeth Barton has entered the mainstream consciousness. For too long, her life was relegated to a curious footnote in the history of Henry VIII: an odd reminder of how supposedly superstitious Catholic England was on the eve of Reformation. Yet Mantel excelled in demonstrating the truth of Barton’s story: the ‘Nun of Kent’, or ‘Holy Maid of Kent’, or, latterly, the ‘Mad Maid of Kent’ was, in her day, an incredible political force. She moved in the highest circles and played a key role in Henry VIII’s ‘Great Matter’. But who was she?

Elizabeth Barton was born in1506 in Aldington and pursued a career as a servant. In 1525, after surviving a serious illness, she began pronouncing her visionary and precognitive powers. Her claims were at first conservative: she exhorted people to pray to the Virgin Mary and undertake pilgrimages – all standard stuff. Soon, however, those in positions of power were taking notice of her. Archbishop William Warham was her biggest early catch, and his instinct was that this wonder of Catholic piety and power should be sponsored – andcontrolled – so that she didn’t go off-message. To that end, she was lodged in St Sepulchre’s Priory and placed under the spiritual tutelage of a monk, Edward Bocking. In 1527 she was introduced to Cardinal Wolsey, who was impressed enough to engineer audiences for her with Henry VIII himself. All doors were thereafter open to Elizabeth Barton. In another age, her future would have been assured. Unfortunately, as Henry proceeded towards his nullity suit with Katherine of Aragon, religious matters were far too contentious – and by this time Elizabeth Barton far too influential – for her to enjoy a stable career. She was forced to pick a side: was she with the conservative Catholics, who had long been her backers, or was she with Henry as he struggled to dissolve his marriage in the teeth of a vacillating Roman curia? Barton chose the conservative faction and threw herself into condemning Henry’s actions and prophesying that if he abandoned his wife he would die within a month. The king could not destroy her for this at first; she was far too powerful. Instead, he and his agents set about destroying her credibility instead, by such means as condemning her as mad and accusing her of sexual impropriety with priests and monks. At length, Henry’s agent Thomas Cromwell proceeded against her. Barton was eventually attainted for treason and forced to confess that she was a mere fantasist. She was hanged at Tyburn in 1534, with her head then being struck off and impaled on a spike on the northern end of London Bridge (displayed heads not being transferred to the Southwark end until 1577, when the Drawbridge Tower was reduced).

3. Model Misbehaviour: Perkin Warbeck

The Tudors, at least as far as bloodlines go, always had a somewhat shaky claim to the English throne. Legitimacy was thus a perennial cause of anxiety to the first Tudor king, Henry VII. This was hardly helped by the occasional irruption into the political sphere of pretenders to the throne – particularly those who claimed to be the true heirs to the late Edward IV, whose two sons, Edward VI and Prince Richard, had vanished under mysterious circumstances during the brief reign of Richard III. An attempt was made early in Henry’s reign to set up a boy, John (later known as ‘Lambert’) Simnel as Prince Richard, who had supposedly not been murdered in the Tower at all. Later, Simnel would be presented as Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick (son of Edward IV’s brother George, Duke of Clarence), when it was erroneously believed the real Warwick had been killed. The rebellion raised under Simnel’s banner would fail at Stoke Field, but the idea of a surviving Plantagenet prince would be resurrected from 1490 onwards, when an attractive and polished young man claiming to be the lost Prince Richard would launch a charm offensive on the courts of Europe. Who was he?

In reality a son of Jehan de Werbecque, ‘Perkin Warbeck’ (as the English later dubbed him) was a middle-class lad from Tournai. His connection with England was born when he began trading cloth on behalf of an English merchant named John Stewe. Another merchant took him to Dublin, where he was used to model silk garments – which, evidently, demonstrated that he had a suitably princely carriage when dressed for the occasion. He won over the residents of Cork, who suggested that he might be a substitute regal claimant, and launched a precipitate attempt at invading England with Irish support (which failed to materialise). Thereafter his rise was meteoric; he won support at the Renaissance courts of France and Burgundy (where the real Prince Richard’s aunt professed faith in him). In 1593, Maximilian I, King of the Romans, recognised him formally as Richard IV of England. A further attemptat invasion followed and failed (this time at Deal, in Kent), and the crowned heads of Europe quietly realised they had been backing a lame horse. Warbeck thus landed in Scotland, whose king, James IV, welcomed him and set him up with a bride, Lady Catherine Gordon. James, however, had rather missed the boat on Warbeck, and eventually sent him to try again in England – on the provocatively-named ship, the Cuckoo. This attempt, made by way of Cornwall, would also fail, and Warbeck would this time be captured by English government forces. Henry VII would at first treat his captive curiosity well, notwithstanding the headaches Warbeck had caused him. After repeated escape attempts, however, the by-now sad figure of Perkin Warbeck would be forced to confess to being a pretender. He was hanged – a common criminal’s death – in 1499. The unfortunate Earl of Warwick – the real one – would be beheaded that same year.

2. The White Rose: Richard de la Pole

Richard de la Pole has the honour of being the last serious Yorkist claimant to the English throne: as the son of John de la Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk and his wife, Elizabeth (a daughter of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville), he had, in some eyes, a stronger claim to the throne than the Tudors. This did not escape the notice of Henry VIII. Nor did the fact that de la Pole’s brother, John, had risen in support of the pretender Lambert Simnel (and died fighting at Stoke Field). Richard de la Pole fled England during the reign of Henry VII, in order to join his brother Edmund, and was excluded from the general pardon issued on the accession of Henry VIII. The king would thereafter concern himself with the troublesome de la Poles; Edmund, who had been sent back to England under an international treaty signed between Henry VII and Philip I of Castile, would be beheaded in 1513 (after having languished in the Tower for seven years). Richard de la Pole would thus assume the mantle of the White Rose, or the Yorkist claimant.

Wisely remaining abroad, Richard spent his time forming international alliances and plotting to invade England. A cat-and-mouse game ensued, with Henry VIII sending spies to inform on Richard (and ideally slay him), and Richard turning those spies to his own advantage to learn about English affairs. Henry would, generally, not set out to purge his rivals (preferring to wait until they gave him cause), but in Richard de la Pole’s case he made an exception, and for over a decade the death of the White Rose would be his unattainable goal. In the end, it was not Henry VIII’s machinations that did for Richard de la Pole but his friendship with Francis I of France. When the French monarch lost the battle of Pavia in 1525, Richard was with him. Francis would be taken hostage and Richard would be killed in battle. In England, Henry was cock-a-hoop at the news that a troublesome thorn in his side had been removed permanently.

1. ‘Her conditions are as crooked as her carcass’: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

Elizabeth I was generally sensitive to the jealousies and grievances caused by having royal favourites. Her solution was to virtually professionalise the role, using it as a means of rewarding those who were of high status (and whom she liked) but who hadneither the wit nor the inclination to spend decades proving their worth in exhaustive government service. Thanks to his notoriety as the Elizabethan era’s favourite bad boy – which has led to portrayals by Errol Flynn, Robin Ellis, Hans Matheson, and Hugh Dancy – Essex has long inspired debate, as well as winning both champions and detractors. Was he mad? Bad? Dangerous to know?

Born in the mid-1560s, Essex was the son of Lettice Knollys (whom Queen Elizabeth seemed keen to malign as a bad girl) and Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex. His father died when he was young, leaving his mother free to marry Elizabeth’s great favourite, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (who was scandalously accused of poisoning the first earl). Essex thus had as his stepfather a past master in the art of courting royal favour, and in his youth he was raised in the household of England’s chief minister, William Cecil, Lord Burghley. His star was thus marked out to be in the ascendant. Adding to the privilege of his upbringing was his behaviour and appearance: tall, attractive, and with russet hair and beard, he could play music, sing, dance, and flirt. Moreover, he had a remarkable personal charisma, was willing to win friends, and – surprisingly for an era of naked ambition and duplicity – he took popular notions about chivalry seriously (too seriously, in fact). When Leicester died in 1588, Essex happily put himself forward as Elizabeth’s champion and new favourite, and it seems he really did fall in love with the spellbinding image of Gloriana (which was a far cry from the reality of the ageing queen, who was increasingly looking out-of-date and who had rather begun to believe her own hype). On the debit side, Essex was also hopelessly in love with his sense of honour and had an appreciation of his own political, naval, and military skills which was far out of kilter with his actual abilities. His relationship with Elizabeth was thus rocky; he would passionately swear his love and devotion and then suddenly throw temper tantrums. He would demand military and political posts and sulk when they were slow in coming. He would beg positions for his friends and followers and run away from court without leave when he failed to secure them. Elizabeth appears, remarkably, to have found all this exciting and enjoyable: it was a far cry from the stale protestations of love from her dwindling band of long-time courtiers. Essex, too, found that his own star could only rise higher and others’ expense, and the chief target of his jealous enmity was Burghley’s son, Robert Cecil, whom he was determined to make an enemy of. Cecil, however, was far too smart to bite. Thus began a protracted and tiresome battle for influence in Elizabeth’s final years, with her handsome favourite desperately seeking a stage on which to display his (imagined) abilities. After numerous failures and fights with his royal mistress, he was despatched to Ireland with the task of bringing a rebellion to heel. This he failed to do (in fairness, he could see the problems on the ground, whilst Elizabeth could not). On his return, he burst into the queen’s bedchamber and saw her undressed. Both were appalled; he with the reality of the withered old woman beneath the wig and gowns, and she with the potentially dangerous youth she’d sponsored. Essex would fall from grace spectacularly, attempt a coup aimed at removing Cecil from his position as Elizabeth’s new right hand, and watch, stupefied, as it collapsed about his ears. He would go to the block in 1601, after desperately trying to rebrand himself as a Protestant martyr.This would fail too; he would, though, inexplicably enjoy an afterlife as a mythologised, dashing, swashbuckling hero. He wasn’t. He was a very naughty boy.

Bonus: “Enter HEADSMAN with Jane’s head”: Thomas Wyatt the younger

John Webster and Thomas Dekker’s 1607 play “Sir Thomas Wyatt” ends on a particularly gruesome note: the severed head of Lady Jane Grey is carried onstage, in the hopes of promoting gasps of horror from the audience. The following line, undercutting the unpleasantness with its sheer lack of subtlety, is ‘Here comes the headsman with the head of Jane’. The play, really, is mistitled: it is the tragedy of Lady Jane Grey far more than of Thomas Wyatt. But who was he?

Born in 1521, Sir Thomas Wyatt the younger was the son of the more famous Sir Thomas Wyatt (whose poetry and friendship with Anne Boleyn have elevated him to Tudor stardom). Young Wyatt was a bit of a wild child, who was found in the 1540s to have been in the circle of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (and to have enjoyed causing disturbances in the City with that young rakehell). His chosen career was in the military, but he was not averse to politicking. The events of the 1550s allowed him to combine both interests. When Mary I announced her plans to marry Philip II of Spain, Wyatt, a Hispanophobe, decided something had to be done. He launched an armed rebellion against the queen and, on its failure, was committed to the Tower. There, it was hoped he might implicate Mary’s sister, the Lady Elizabeth, whom he had earmarked as a possible replacement if the Catholic Mary could be toppled. To his credit, Wyatt did no such thing. He went to the block in 1554, having refused to betray Elizabeth. Unfortunately, in the wake of the failed rebellion, the government also decided to rid itself of prisoners Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley, who had had nothing to do with the rising (though her father and Dudley’s brothers had supported it).

Can’t get enough of the Tudors? You might like my new novel, “Of Judgement Fallen”: a murder mystery set against the backdrop of Henry VIII’s 1523 ‘Black Parliament’. You can grab it here (or at all good bookshops):

Of Judgement Fallen

Spring, 1523.

Henry VIII readies England for war with France. The King’s chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, prepares to open Parliament at Blackfriars. The eyes of the country turn towards London. But all is not well in Wolsey’s household. A visiting critic of the Cardinal is found brutally slain whilst awaiting an audience at Richmond Palace. He will not be the last to die.

Anthony Blanke, trumpeter and groom, is once again called upon to unmask a murderer. Joining forces with Sir Thomas More, he is forced to confront the unpopularity of his master’s rule. As the bodies of the Cardinal’s enemies mount up around him, Anthony finds himself under suspicion. Journeying through the opulence of More’s home, the magnificence of Wolsey’s York Place, and the dank dungeons of London’s gaols, he must discover whether the murderer of the Cardinal’s critics is friend or foe.

With time running out before Parliament sits, Anthony must clear his name and catch the killer before the King’s justice falls blindly upon him.

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