- What can our readers expect from your new novel Cavalier Queen?
A surprising and passionate love story of the English Civil War. The marriage of Queen Henrietta Maria and King Charles I is generally believed to be one of the great romances in English history. But there was another man in the Queen’s life. Henry Jermyn, after whom Jermyn Street in in London is named. It was Henry who remained at Henrietta’s side throughout her life, travelling with her into exile, supporting her efforts to secure arms to send back to the Cavaliers, and riding with her army to the Royalist headquarters. There were rumous that they had an affair and King Charles II might be Henry’s son. Henry remained unmarried and on Henrietta’s death said ‘I have no tears left to cry. Love has cost me too much. ‘ It was this quote unearthed by his biography of Henry that inspired me to write Cavalier Queen.
- It is set in the 17th century, so tell us a little bit about your research process into this period in history.
Queen Henrietta Maria, King Charles and Henry Jermyn were all wonderful letter writers and much of their correspondence has been preserved. Which is a rich source of information and also brings them vividly to life and helped me hear their voices. The fact that much of the letters were written in code and that Henry Jermyn was in the privileged position of deciphering the King’s letters to Henrietta and ciphering her letters to the King adds a rare poignancy. Lots of other letters written during the period - by the Verney family etc. add colour and details of daily life. Diane Purkiss’s ‘Civil War a People’s History’ was also invaluable.
- What was so magnetic about the character princess Henrietta Maria of France for you?
The resonances with Princess Diana for a start. As a teenager HM was married to a man she had never met, was sent to England unable to speak the language and suffered loneliness and isolation during her first years in the English court due to the malevolent influence of the Duke of Buckingham. She has a reputation for being frivolous and vain. But she was extraordinarily plucky. When the Civil War began she rolled up her sleeves, negotiated with arms dealers and pawn brokers to raise money and weapons. She faced shipwreck, inspiring her fellow travellers with her bravery, and returned to England with a price on her head to lead an army! Her letters reveal her to be strong, determined, loving and protective.
- You spent 10 years at BBC Radio 1, so when did you decide to leave and pursue your passion for history?
I had the idea for what became my first novel, ‘Isabella’ so it felt like the right time to go. Also wanted to have children and writing and living in the country fitted better with family life.
- Why is the 17th Century of particular interest to you?
It’s an incredibly turbulent time. Civil War, plague, fire! A time of high jeopardy where people were facing death every day. Being a rock chic I confess I’m also drawn to the Cavaliers, with their flowing locks, lacy shirts, boots and breeches. Wine, women and flamboyance! They were the rock stars of their day!
- You live in the Cotsworlds, were you drawn there by its history?
Yes. I currently live in Stow on the Wold, round the corner from Queen Henrietta Place! Also love the beautiful environment and being near to London which I still feel is my real home.
- What is your writing background?
My grandmother encouraged me to write a journal. I’ve always written short stories and poems or song lyrics but had nothing published until my first novel, ‘Isabella’ when I was 28. Have now written five books.
- What is the best aadvice you can give to authors who want to write about the past?
Read anything and everything written during the period you want to write about - letters, novels, etc. I love the broadsheet ballads of the seventeenth century which give voices to normal folk on the streets. Read biographies and history books by historians who have researched that era. Immerse yourself in the thoughts, beliefs, lifestyles of the period you want to write about. Watch movies too but bear in mind they might not be entirely accurate!
- You clearly enjoy writing about history, do you enjoy other genres?
Yes. Crime. Literary novels. Children’s literature. Classics. Poetry.
- Who do you enjoy to read?
All sorts! Currently reading short stories by Alice Munro. Carol Anne Duffy’s poems. Recently read Dragon Tattoo books and loved them, also Peter Carey. Looking forward to reading Rose Tremain’s sequel to ‘Restoration’
- Who are your most significant influences in your own writing?
Daphne Du Maurier and The Brontes. Margaret Mitchell. Peter Carey. Philippa Gregory.
Cavalier Queen by Fiona Mountain, Arrow, £6.99
Female First Lucy Walton