Adrienne Dillard is the author of a best-selling novel “Cor Rotto: A novel of Catherine Carey” which has been translated into Spanish too. She’s also the author of “Catherine Carey in a Nutshell” which is part of MadeGlobal’s Nutshell series which aims to give readers a good grounding in a historical topic in a concise, easily digestible and accessible way.
In tonight’s talk, Adrienne discusses the way Jane Parker is represented in fiction and how this might not actually represent the real Jane Parker. Adrienne’s talk is very informative and we LOVE the way she examines history with a clean slate, not pre-judging history.
Here’s an excerpt from Adrienne’s forthcoming book on Lady Rochford
12 November 1541
The river was calmer than I had ever seen it. Ordinarily, the tide would be wild by this time of year. The currents of the Thames could be fierce, and woe betide any man unfortunate enough to fall in, but tonight it was still, the surface glassy. When I allowed myself to peer down into the dark depths, my tired, drawn face wavered in the reflection. I turned away quickly and fought back a wave of nausea, frightened by the anxiety I saw etched there.
As we drifted through the dense low fog, I stared out across the water at the small patches of light in the distance. I could not prove the source of each hazy beacon, but in my mind, each one represented a home. The inhabitants of these homes invaded my thoughts, and I envied the present comfort they were enjoying. A mother, father and their three children sat down to a small wooden table in the cottage of my mind. A meat pie steamed in the centre as they bowed their heads to pray. Their surroundings began to take shape, and I saw that there were no fine tapestries, no plates of gold; but a fire crackled invitingly in the hearth, and there was an air of joy that permeated the dwelling.
I turned my attention back to the family. Having finished the prayer, their faces were upturned and shining with delight. The children, two towheaded boys and a girl with raven hair set about devouring the pastry before them. The man threw his head back in a hearty laugh at his children’s exuberance and his rich dark hair and gleaming black eyes danced in the light of the fire. The familiarity of it caused my breath to catch in my throat. It was George – my George. I squeezed my eyes shut to ward off the tears that burned behind them. I would not cry. I refused to let them see my pain.
I shook my head to clear my thoughts, and the family faded away like the ghosts they were and would always be. I would never have a family with George. Our children would never laugh at our table or scamper before our hearth. The life we could have had disappeared on a fair May day and here I was on my own journey to the same stone fortress that had swallowed our dreams. George was gone, and the agony of it ached within me.
I pulled my cloak tighter around my shoulders, but the bitter cold ate its way through and chilled me to the bone; goose pimples erupted beneath my fine velvet sleeves. The stillness of the water and the sluggish pace of the barge made the journey seem interminable and, though I dreaded my arrival at the Tower, I was anxious to be out of the cold and cocooned in my bed. I would gratefully welcome the sleep that transported me from my doleful prison and drowned out the wails that echoed in my ears. Katherine Howard’s cries had haunted me even after I was out of her company and only a steady slumber could quiet them.
“Only a few moments more my lady.”
The kindness in the guard’s voice startled me. Perhaps I would be shown mercy yet. I choked back a polite response. I didn’t trust my voice not to falter. Kindness or not, these were royal guards, and they were taking me to prison. I was determined to maintain my dignity, but immense fear threatened to overtake my composure. I could not respond to their niceties. I refused to weep at their solicitude. After all, their courtesy was owed to me. I was still a viscountess, and the queen’s sins were not my own. I could not be held accountable for Katherine’s behaviour for I had been simply doing as I was bid. I felt my resolve stiffen, but deep down I knew my excuses didn’t matter. The king believed that I had betrayed him yet again. I would not escape with my life this time.
The imposing prison that had formerly housed my husband and sister-in-law rose up out of the gloom before me. The alabaster stone was shocking against the dreary backdrop of the night. My stomach clenched at the sight of it. I waited until the barge docked before I stood up and then drew a deep breath and fought off the lightheadedness that threatened my balance. The kindly guard offered his arm to me, but I shook my head in response. He dipped a nod in return and hurried to the dock where his captain was standing, deep in conversation with Sir John Gage.
Gage was the most recent Constable of the Tower, having taken over for the man who oversaw the imprisonment of George, Sir William Kingston. I knew Gage quite well from his time at Henry VIII’s court, but it had been awhile since I had seen him; the last time was at the funeral of the king’s third wife. On that day, I had marvelled at the smoothness of his skin; how it pulled taut against his fine jaw. I had longed to stroke the back of my hand against it to see if it was as soft as I imagined. Now that face was marred by the deep lines of age and worry.
After a brief exchange, all three of the men turned their eyes towards me. Gage merely frowned, but the captain’s thin lips twisted into a sneer. Only a few words of his response drifted over the water, and they were not friendly. The guard turned to walk back towards me. As he stepped onto the barge, the captain yelled, “Oswin, tell My Lady Rocheford that she can get off the barge however she likes, but for all our sake’s don’t let her fall in.”
Oswin – the name sounded so familiar to me, yet so strange at the same time. It reminded me of a memory from long ago: the sweet tang of rotting apples, the dew on my feet and the warm sun on my face.
Oswin came towards me with an apologetic smile. “Please my lady, allow me to assist you.”
My pride would not consent, and I would not give the captain any satisfaction, so I demurred again. “Thank you, but your assistance is not required.” The high timbre of my voice surprised me. It was unfamiliar, and it sounded strange.
The dutiful guard stepped back reluctantly and allowed me to sweep past him. I stopped short at the edge of the barge. Politeness dictated that a timber plank be laid down across the barge and the stairs so that passengers could easily step across, but I found no such comforts offered. Instead, I stared down at a ribbon of inky water between the two. It would be so easy to slip and allow myself to be swallowed by the murky depths below. No prison, no more despair, perhaps not even any pain. I had been told once that drowning was an easy death if you could overcome your basic instinct to survive. I didn’t know how strong my survival instinct was anymore. Would it be an easy escape?
Sensing my hesitation, Oswin stepped quickly off the barge and onto the stairs. He held out his hand, but I ignored it. I stepped forward but paused momentarily with my foot dangling over the void. Before I could decide, a surprise wave washed against the side of the barge and knocked me off balance. The instinct that I had doubted momentarily only minutes ago surged through my body, and I lunged for the guard. Oswin’s reflexes were strong, and he righted me quickly, but Gage and the captain noticed the disturbance, and they rushed towards us.
“That’s enough Oswin,” the captain barked. “I will handle it from here.”
Oswin bowed quickly then stepped back so we could pass.Though I was grateful for his quick action, my embarrassment kept me from meeting his gaze, so I stared straight ahead and ignored the men around me. I sensed the captain’s fury and felt my own welling up inside. ‘Of course, he wouldn’t want to explain to the king why his prisoner had drowned,’ I screamed sarcastically inside my head. ‘We mustn’t allow anyone to escape the king’s justice.’
“Lady Rochford, you must know that not even pity from a failed suicide attempt could deliver you now. The king would have saved himself so much trouble if he had only executed you with your deviant husband,” the captain breathed into my ear. “Never fear, you will be joining him in Hell soon enough.” I wanted to retch from the foul sulphur smell of his breath.
Gage stepped between us and placed his arm on the captain’s shoulder. “I can manage from here.”
The captain doffed his cap and shot me a parting glare then retreated to the barge.
Gage cleared his throat and then offered his arm. “I’m sorry that man felt the need to humiliate you further, but I can assure you that I do not agree with his sentiments.”
“I’m sorry that man felt the need to humiliate you further, but I can assure you that I do not agree with his sentiments.”
His candour gave me the courage to face him finally. I saw the sincerity in his bright cobalt eyes and it gave me a small measure of comfort. I took his proffered arm and allowed him to escort me to his home and my prison.
“Cor Rotto” book giveaway
To be in with a chance to win your copy of Cor Rotto: A novel of Catherine Carey, is simple. All you need to do is to comment below and say why you’ve enjoyed MadeGlobal’s Anne Boleyn Day 2016. You can have the book either in English or Spanish (we published both!) – it’s up to you.
The comments section will be open for 24 hours and a winner will be picked from the successful people who comment.