About the Golden Widows

frameM IsoldeMartyn TheGoldenWidowsIn the winter of 1460–61, it would have been hard to predict who would triumph in the bloody encounters between the Houses of York and Lancaster. For the wives of the noble lords caught up in the struggle, wondering whether their menfolk would survive the battles, must have caused much anguish. For those women whose husbands died on the losing side, there was the likelihood of their children being disinherited.

In The Golden Widows, I wanted to explore the experiences of such women and focus on a real historical woman from either side. Young Kate Neville is the sister of Warwick the Kingmaker and her husband’s family, the Bonvilles of Devonshire, are all fighting for the Yorkists. She has a six month old daughter.

On the other side is Elysabeth Woodville, Lady Grey, who is in her early twenties with two young sons. Her husband is a supporter of the House of Lancaster. What will happen if she finds herself the widow of a traitor and her sons’ inheritance is seized by the victors?

Tucked away in the novel are several other older widows: Elysabeth’s materialistic mother-in-law, Lady Ferrers; Kate’s feisty aunt, a woman in her sixties who is looking for a fourth husband; Lady Bonville, Kate’s husband’s grandmother, who is determined to protect Kate and the baby, and Kate’s mother, who cannot overcome her grief.

For some of these women, marrying again was a solution to their predicament but that was possible if you had something to offer like important family copnnections or the guardianship of a wealthy heir. But if you did not have anything to offer, what man would want to take on the penniless wife of a traitor?

Readers may know Elysabeth already from reading other novels or watching the TV series The White Queen but The Golden Widows focuses on her years of struggle and underlies what an exceptional woman she was. What other queen in English history had such a rags to riches story?

I hope readers enjoy Kate and Elysabeth’s struggle to protect their children and find happiness during one of the most turbulent times in English history.

Power Poyntz, Iron Acton and Margaret Woodville

It’s amazing what comes of giving author talks. In April after giving a PowerPoint presentation on researching Mistress to the Crown, one of the audience came up and introduce herself. She was the descendant of Margaret Woodville, the niece of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, King Edward IV’s queen. One of her other ancestors was Sir David Matthew of Glamorgan, who saved Edward’s life at the Battle of Towton. Definitely a man who changed the course of English history!

Margaret Woodville was the illegitimate daughter of the queen’s brother, Anthony Woodville and Gwentlian Stradling. When and where Anthony and Gwentlian had their affair, no one knows. Some historians reckon it was in the 1440s which would have been when they were both teenagers. The mid 1450s has also been suggested. Margaret married Robert Poyntz of iron Acton, who became a supporter of Henry Tudor. Their descendant, Nicholas Poyntz, was on very good terms king Henry VIII.

In The Devil in Ermine, I had a very feisty Margaret Woodville having an affair with my main character, Harry, Duke of Buckingham.

Coincidentally, back in the days when I was a university student, my father and I met Robert Poyntz’s descendant, Colonel Poyntz and his wife. Dad, who loved history, also took me to visit Iron Acton Hall, which is where the Poyntz family are reputed to have entertained King Henry VIII.

Our visit  was long before the property was restored. Back then it was a rundown building being used as  farm, and the floor of the great hall was a huge pile of stones and rubble. It would have taken a lot of effort and expense to repair it but it’s nice to know that has happened successfully.

Anyway, it’s lovely to be in email contact now with Margaret’s great-great-plus granddaughter and talk fifteenth century history, trying to fill in some of the knowledge gaps. I may not get wealthy writing historicals but these sort of spin-offs are a great delight.

It’s a small world!