Friday, 27 January 2012

Author Talk at Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire

Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire. Photograph: J.D. Forrester.

I'm delighted to announce that I shall be giving an author talk and book signing event with refreshments at 'The Stables', Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, CV8 1NE, at 7pm on Thursday 1st March.

The talk is free, but if you wish to book a place, tickets are available from Warwick and Kenilworth Books or you can email

I'll be talking about my Tudor novel, 'The Queen's Secret', which is set entirely at Kenilworth Castle during Queen Elizabeth I's spectacular visit there in July 1575. The queen's visit was hosted by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who was left nearly bankrupt by its cost.

I'll discuss how the queen's would-be husband spent a small fortune on the most lavish entertainment, catering and accommodation for a queen and her court over a period of nineteen days.

I'll also touch on that all-important question behind the controversial, life-long relationship between the Virgin Queen and her favourite: did they, or didn't they?

Finally, I'll explore the tantalising possibility that the young William Shakespeare, then a boy of only eleven years, might have visited Kenilworth with his father during the queen's visit, and taken away an experience which was later to inform some of the most poetic and spectacular imagery in his plays. If so, the young Will Shakespeare would have drunk in the most fantastical visions: torchlit shows across the castle lake at night, the waters lit up by incredible firework displays, with singers, musicians and silk-draped nymphs on a floating island, the mighty Triton riding on a mermaid, and no expense spared to create an 'other worldly' feel to the castle during that summer idyll - all to woo the Virgin Queen, whose own theatrical appearance often mirrored that of a Faerie Queen.

The 'Rainbow Portrait' of Queen Elizabeth I, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts. On display at Hatfield House.
Oberon. My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememberst
 Since once I sat upon a promontory,
 And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back
 Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
 That the rude sea grew civil at her song
 And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
 To hear the sea-maid's music.
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II, Scene i.


  1. Those Royal visits must have been crippling - as much prestige as it conveyed, it nearly bankrupted the families. Never mind the bustle and stench of all those court followers in one place... ;-)

    I'd love to attend your fabulous talk but sadly it's too far away. It's a fascinating era, and I'm already looking forward to reading The Queen's Secret.

  2. Thanks, Cathie. Yes, the poor courtiers had to bear the cost of the queen's state visits themselves - and she never came alone! More often with several hundred courtly followers, guards, servants, carts, belongings etc.

    But the reward of being high in the queen's favour was probably worth the expense for most. That's the theory, at any rate.


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