Praise for Susan Higginbotham's Novels
"Susan Higginbotham transports her readers into a vividly portrayed past."--Helen Hollick, author of The Pendragon's Banner trilogy
A daughter can be a dangerous weapon in the battle for the throne of England
Frances Grey harbored no dream of her children taking the throne. Cousin of the king, she knew the pitfalls of royalty and privilege. Better to marry them off, marry them well, perhaps to a clan like the Dudleys.
Jane Dudley knew her husband was creeping closer to the throne, but someone had to take charge, for the good of the country. She couldn't see the twisted path they all would follow.
The never-before-told story of the women behind the crowning of Jane Grey, this novel is a captivating peek at ambition gone awry, and the damage left in its wake.
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June 01, 2012
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Excerpt from Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
If there is an advantage to dying, it is this: people humor one's wishes. I could ask for all manner of ridiculous things, and I daresay someone would try to oblige me, but instead I simply call for pen and paper.
"Here follows my last will and testament, written with my own hands," I begin, and then I stop, frowning. I am not learned in the law, and the thought occurs to me that perhaps I should give up my task and call in someone who is. But he would charge for it, and that fee would make my children, who have lost so much already, that much the poorer. So I press on. I can say what I need to say as well as any lawyer can, though I might not be as verbose about it. If these last few months have taught me anything, it is how to fend for myself, which is more than I can say for some women I know.
But there is a phrase I am searching for. What is it?
Being in perfect memory, of course. I smile to myself, for although I have forgotten that phrase, there is not much else I have forgotten.
January 1512 to January 1547
I was not born to high estate. My father, Edward Guildford, was only a knight--and he was not even that when I was born, but a mere squire, albeit one high in the young king's favor. It was owing to this royal esteem that one chilly day in January 1512, my father strode into our hall at Halden in Kent with a black-haired boy in tow. "This is John Dudley, Mouse," Father said, using the pet name I had been given to distinguish me from my stepmother, Joan, whose name was sufficiently close to mine as to cause confusion sometimes. "He is to be my ward--that is, in my care--now that his father is dead and his mother's remarried. He'll be staying here a long time."
John, who was seven years of age to my three (almost four, as I liked to point out), executed a respectful bow, but did not match my stepmother's welcoming smile. "You look cold, John," my stepmother said then, her voice lacking its natural warmth. "Why don't you sit by the fire?"
It was an order rather than a suggestion, and the boy said, "Yes, mistress," and obeyed. His voice was not a Kentish one, even I at my young age could tell.
"He seems very ill mannered," my stepmother said when the boy was out of earshot.
"He's coming among strangers, and he's tired. He's a London boy, don't forget, not used to riding." My father chuckled. "Stared at my horse as if he were at the menagerie at the Tower. I had him take the reins for a time while coming here, though, and he did quite well. He's sharp."
"Aye, like his father. And look where that got him, speaking of the Tower."
"Where's that, Mama?" I could not resist asking. "What tower?"
"Never you mind," said my stepmother briskly as my father gave her what I had begun to recognize as a meaningful look. I was a quiet child, which meant adults often said interesting things in my presence they might have avoided saying in front of a more talkative girl, but sometimes to my disappointment they remembered themselves. Pitching her voice in a manner that informed me that future comments would not be welcome, she said to my father, "How much does he know of all that, by the way?"
"Most all, I fear. Some of the neighbors talked before they stopped speaking to the family altogether, and he figured out the rest for himself. He's sharp, as I said."
"Oh." My stepmother's voice softened. "Poor lad." She glanced at me. "Jane, why don't you join Master Dudley by the fire?"
I obeyed. John was sitting on a bench and staring into the flames. Shy as I was, I was being brought up to converse properly, as became a well-bred young lady. "Hello," I said brightly.