Book one of The Henrician Chronicle
‘A king must have sons: strong, healthy sons to rule after him.’
On the unexpected death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, his brother, Henry, becomes heir to the throne of England. The intensive education that follows offers Henry a model for future excellence; a model that he is doomed to fail.
On his accession, he chooses his brother’s widow, Catalina of Aragon, to be his queen. Together they plan to reinstate the glory of days of old and fill the royal nursery with boys.
But when their first-born son dies at just a few months old, and subsequent babies are born dead or perish in the womb, the king’s golden dreams are tarnished.
Christendom mocks the virile prince. Catalina’s fertile years are ending yet all he has is one useless living daughter, and a baseborn son.
He needs a solution but stubborn to the end, Catalina refuses to step aside.
As their relationship founders, his eye is caught by a woman newly arrived from the French court. Her name is Anne Boleyn.
A Matter of Conscience: the Aragon Years offers a unique first-person account of the ‘monster’ we love to hate and reveals a man on the edge; an amiable man made dangerous by his own impossible expectation
When and where do you prefer to write?
I write in the mornings, in my study that looks out over Cardigan Bay. It is such a pretty view I sometimes close the blinds to help me concentrate. It is a nice sunny room, and I’ve a big desk. I thought a larger workspace would help me be more organised but unfortunately it just provides more room for extra clutter. Writing historical fiction requires many research books and notebooks so I need a large space – trouble is, I can’t fit a larger desk into the room.
Do you need peace and quiet when you are writing?
Yes, and luckily it is usually very quiet here. My children are all grown up and left home so there is just me and my old fella. Sometimes there are builders near by making a racket which really annoys me if I am in the middle of something important but generally it is quiet. I don’t play music for atmosphere or anything like that and If my husband’s laptop gets too loud, I yell at him to turn it down.
If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never thought about that. I have worked with other authors on anthologies. A Free publication Betrayal was published last year with eleven other historical fiction authors writing in various eras including: Helen Hollick, Annie Whitehead, Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Derek Birks, Amy Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Tony Riches, Mercedes Rochelle, and Elizabeth St. John. There is a Ghost anthology coming soon too, but that isn’t the same as co-authoring. I suppose it would need to be with an author who writes similarly, or not. I am not sure how that works.
Say someone asks if they can use your name in a book. Would you rather be the ‘good one’ or the ‘bad one’?
Well, for a start, I prefer rounded, multi-dimensional figures but if you are going to press me, I’d prefer to be the baddie, or at least the more complex person. They are generally more interesting. Someone whose character has been affected by negative life experiences. I am always intrigued by the back story of characters like Mrs Danvers in Rebecca, or Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist.
Who would you like/have liked to interview?
I’d like to interview Matthew Macfadyen and ask him to narrate The Henrician Chronicle when it is complete. He has such a lovely voice. It is always hard to find good narrators – I have a lovely lady, Alex Lee Audio who has recorded The Kiss of the Concubine: the story of Anne Boleyn, A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York, and The Heretic Wind; the story of Mary Tudor, Queen of England but this trilogy needs a man who can pull off the voice of a king. If I can’t find a suitable voice, there will be no audio version. So, if you’re reading this, Matthew, and you are at a loose end, give me a shout.
Where can I find you when you are reading?
In bed usually, either before I sleep or before I get up. That is if you want to catch me reading for pleasure. I read a lot of research books before I start writing. If I am reading and note taking, I will be at my desk, or if it is summer, I will be on my hammock swing in the garden.
Where can I find you when you are not writing/reading?
I am usually at home or not far away. If I am not at my desk working, then look for me in my sewing room, garden, or beach. I live near the beach so often walk there, collecting shells and pretty pebbles, picking up bits of plastic that the tide has washed in. I also garden, so if the weather is fair, I am out there digging or weeding or pruning the roses. I’ve been shielding from COVID-19 and it is so long since I’ve been out, I can’t remember where I used to go before.
What goes through your mind when you hold your new book in your hands for the first time?
How the heck did I manage to pull this off. Ha ha! Even after so many books I am still amazed to have finally finished. When writing I always reach a point where I think I can’t do it. I suppose it’s a bit like running a marathon when you hit the wall and feel you can’t go on (not that I’ve ever run anywhere – lol). Somehow, I reach the end, and even though the manuscript might be a total mess, I know it can be knocked into shape during the edits. There are many stages between writing The End and holding the final paperback and it is always a special moment. I usually take photographs for prosperity.
How do you come up with a title for your book?
A Matter of Conscience is a phrase that crops up in the book when Henry is arguing his case as to why he can’t remain married to Catherine of Aragon. As his brother’s widow he feels it goes against the bible – In Leviticus it says:
“Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.”
“If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing…they shall be childless.”
In my book Henry says to Cardinal Wolsey “It is a matter of conscience. If ever you loved me, Wolsey, sort it: use any means necessary. Free me from this woman or I will be forced to find a man who can.”
The titles of most of my books (thirteen altogether) have just occurred to me, usually shortly after I begin to write them. The Winchester Goose is about prostitutes from Southwark who were referred to as Winchester Geese because they paid their rent to the bishops of Winchester. Intractable Heart is from a book written by Katherine Parr. The Song of Heledd is taken from a Welsh poem Canu Heledd and is a direct translation. I was recently thinking of a title for Book Two of A Matter of Conscience and since it is to be a trilogy, I want the title to
be similar. I am dithering between A Matter of Faith and A Matter of Honour – I think Faith will win since the narrative takes place during massive religious upheaval.
Thank you, Judith Arnopp and The Coffee Pot Book Club
About the Author
A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies.
She lives on the coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women but more recently is writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself.
Her novels include:
A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years
The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace
The Beaufort Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle
The Beaufort Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle
The King’s Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle
The Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII
A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York
Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Song of Heledd
The Forest Dwellers
Judith is also a founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of Cambria and makes historical garments both for the group and others. She is not professionally trained but through trial, error and determination has learned how to make authentic looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.