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My Inspiration for House Arrest
All the authors involved are very excited about the imminent release of Betrayal, a collection of short stories by historical fiction authors. The inspiration for my short story House Arrest was, of course, the recent lock down. When Covid-19 struck I didn’t mind too much about having to stay home. I work from home anyway so, apart from missing my family and grandchildren, I was happy. I prefer to be home. It is my favourite place and I am fortunate to have a beautiful garden, a sea view, and a beach close by on which to take my hour exercise. The weather was fabulous. I pottered in the garden, my husband painted the exterior house walls, I sewed – sometimes I even did some writing. It was good for me but as I strolled around my fragrant rose beds, I was not unaware of the difficulties some people faced. I pitied those trapped in high rise flats, with no gardens, and lacking somewhere pleasant to take their hour of exercise. Comparatively, my lockdown prison was a gilded cage, rather like Margaret Beaufort when she was placed under house arrest by Richard III in 1483. Unlike Margaret though, there was no executioner’s axe dangling above my head and I was not involved in a treasonous plot against the king.
After years of civil unrest in England, the Lancastrians had been vanquished and by 1483 Margaret had seemingly come to terms with York’s rule. She enjoyed a prominent position at court serving Queen Elizabeth (Woodville) and was negotiating terms with King Edward IV for the reinstatement of her son, Henry Tudor’s rights and properties. But King Edward’s sudden death put an end to her hopes of seeing Henry’s return from exile. I imagine she was crushed by this but harboured hopes of resuming negotiations with the new king, the boy who would shortly be crowned Edward V.
However, as we all know, Edward never ascended the throne. He was swallowed into the Tower and it is doubtful the events that followed will ever be fully explained. What we do know is that Edward’s uncle, Richard of Gloucester, became king in his nephew’s stead. The outcry that followed was nowhere near as loud or as violent as social media exchanges on the subject today.
|Richard III, Anne and family|
When Richard and his queen, Anne Neville, were crowned, Margaret was given the honour of bearing the queen’s train and took full and an apparently joyful part in the ceremony. Shortly afterwards, for unknown reasons, she somehow became involved in a plot with the Duke of Buckingham and the dowager, Elizabeth Woodville, to overthrow Gloucester. Their ultimate aim is unclear. She may have been supporting the ambitions of Buckingham or he may have been supporting hers. Elizabeth Woodville, never a fan of Gloucester, would have backed either of them in the hope that somehow her family would be reinstated. At this point Margaret’s husband, Thomas Stanley, was a keen and trusted supporter of King Richard. It is probably due to this that when the initial plot failed, the king chose to show leniency. Instead of sentencing Margaret to death for treason, she was attainted, her properties confiscated and she was placed under house arrest … in the care of her husband.
From the six years of study while writing The Beaufort Chronicle I concluded that Margaret was a woman who needed to be in the centre of things. From the moment she emerged from Wales on the death of her husband, Edmund Tudor, and married Henry Stafford, Margaret worked toward gaining the favour of King Edward and the honour of a post in the royal household. This is often seen as a negative aspect of her character but as duchess she was born for a role in upper echelons. It was her right and her duty to serve and she’d been trained for it. This does not mean she believed it her right to rule or even dreamed of doing so. She would have been well aware since infancy of the taint of bastardy on her blood line that removed them from succession.
Her incarceration at Lathom would have been hard on Margaret. The house may have been luxurious. She may have had a huge household, enough to eat, warm clothing, pleasant gardens to walk in but she would still have chaffed against the situation. She was not the sort of person to be content with idleness. She was vitally intelligent and informed. In her later life, as the King’s Mother she took a keen interest in charity, education and politics. But, in 1483, as she sat in her chambers, looking at the same view every day, waited and watched over by the same faces, her every move reported she was blind to the glory that awaited her in the future. During that time she must have felt that the rest of her life would be spent under house arrest.
During her imprisonment, she would have heard of the steady stream of courtiers leaving Richard’s court to join Henry in exile. She must have itched to join them. She possibly felt disempowered and overwhelmed with hopelessness. Margaret would not have been content to sit and moulder in a plush gaol when life and possible glory there for the taking. It is little wonder that she found a way to work against a king she did not trust and knew would never forgive her.
I do not subscribe to the belief that Margaret spent her entire life plotting and scheming to place her son on the throne. She was not precognitive and can never have imagined such an opportunity would ever present itself. Initially, as a mother, she just wanted her son home. I can relate to that. She fought for his reinstatement as the Earl of Richmond, I can excuse that. It was not until the opportunity arose to aid Henry in his bid for the crown that she threw her dice on the table.
My short story House Arrest is set before and just after falling from King Richard’s favour. While Margaret waits and wonders at the outcome of her schemes she considers the question of allegiance and whether anyone can be wholly trusted.
A lifelong history enthusiast, Judith Arnopp holds an honours degree in English/Creative writing, and a Masters in Medieval Studies. Judith has written twelve novels to date. Nine of which are based in the Tudor period covering women like Elizabeth of York, Anne Boleyn and Mary Tudor but her main focus is on the perspective of historical women from all roles of life. The Beaufort Chronicle: the life of Lady Margaret Beaufort (three book series) covers the transitional period between Bosworth and the death of Henry Tudor. She is currently taking a break from Tudor women and writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself in ‘A Matter of Conscience: The Aragon Years.’
Her books are available in paperback, kindle and some titles are available on Audible.
Amazon page: author.to/juditharnoppbooks