The Godmother’s Secret

A warm welcome to Elizabeth St John with an excerpt from her latest historical novel, The Godmother’s Secret

Publication Date: 4th October, 2022 / 350 pages

Inspired by England’s most enduring historical mystery, Elizabeth St.John, best-selling author of The Lydiard Chronicles, blends her own family history with known facts and centuries of speculation to create an intriguing alternative story illuminating the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower.

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What if you knew what happened to the Princes in the Tower. Would you tell? Or would you forever keep the secret?

November, 1470: Westminster Abbey. Lady Elysabeth Scrope faces a perilous royal duty when ordered into sanctuary with Elizabeth Woodvillewitness the birth of Edward IV’s Yorkist son. Margaret Beaufort, Elysabeth’s sister, is desperately seeking a pardon for her exiled son Henry Tudor. Strategically, she coerces Lancastrian Elysabeth to be appointed godmother to Prince Edward, embedding her in the heart of the Plantagenets and uniting them in a destiny of impossible choices and heartbreaking conflict.

Bound by blood and torn by honour, when the king dies and Elysabeth delivers her young godson into the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation, she is engulfed in political turmoil. Within months, the prince and his brother have disappeared, Richard III is declared king, and Margaret conspires with Henry Tudor to invade England and claim the throne. Desperate to protect her godson, Elysabeth battles the intrigue, betrayal and power of the last medieval court, defying her husband and her sister under her godmother’s sacred oath to keep Prince Edward safe.

Were the princes murdered by their uncle, Richard III? Was the rebel Duke of Buckingham to blame? Or did Margaret Beaufort mastermind their disappearance to usher in the Tudor dynasty? Of anyone at the royal court, Elysabeth has the most to lose–and the most to gain–by keeping secret the fate of the Princes in the Tower.    

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Here’s an excerpt:

Edward IV has vanquished Henry VI and taken back control of the throne. He has released the queen from Sanctuary and commanded Lancastrian Elysabeth Scrope, the godmother of his child Prince Edward, to the Tower of London.

Chapter 5

Spring 1471 | The Tower of London

I stare dry-eyed and parch-mouthed across the slate-grey waters of the Thames. Gripping the leather strap nailed to the barge to steady against the chop, I am being rowed along the fast-flowing river to the Tower of London, as ordered by the king. Will he honour me now as his blood relative, as the church decrees? Or will he imprison me as his enemy, as politics dictate?

The queen’s words roll over and over in my mind, keeping time with the dipping oars pulling me closer to my destiny.

Peace, she said. But whose peace?

Henry VI, the last true king of the Lancastrian dynasty, is insensible under lock and key in the Tower, his queen fled in exile, his heir slaughtered by his own countrymen.

Peace? At what cost?

Destruction. Carnage. Annihilation. This is war’s legacy.

I shudder away from a vision of my husband bleeding into the tender grass of spring on Tewkesbury’s fields. I have yet to hear of Jack’s fate, and I cannot think of my own destiny without agonising about his. I am a soldier’s wife, and with that comes the deep and constant fear that gnaws every time he leads his army for the king.

“What will happen today, Belle-maman?” Meg’s voice is fractured by the shrieks of gulls squabbling over rubbish on the riverbank. Her green eyes reflect my concern, and I wish I could give her more than cold comfort.

“I stand before the king as his child’s godmother. And as his Lancastrian enemy.”

“But surely he knows you had no choice.”

“In my oath? Or in saving his son’s life?” And there lies the heart of the matter. If King Edward refutes my appointment, labels me King Henry’s spy, I do have a choice.

“You would not tell of the witchcraft of that night?”

“To save you and me from being imprisoned as Yorkest traitors?” I pull my cloak closer, brace myself against a gust that cuts like jagged glass against my throat. “I will know when I stand before the king. And my God.”

On the north bank, just an arrow’s flight away, York Palace slides by, immutable and blank-faced. As we turn the great bend that slings the river east to the cold German Sea, the spiteful headwind whips whitecaps across its broad stretch and the oarsmen strain against the tide. Fickle April has hidden its sunshine behind a shroud of clouds, and the cold creeps into my marrow and settles in my bones.

We travel by barge, for the streets are impassable with the crowds pouring from every home and merchant’s shop to celebrate the return of King Edward. London turns its back on King Henry and all those who follow him. This is a hostile world, and my time in sanctuary seems safe and sacred, for what does life hold for me now? Uncertainty churns my thoughts sour, and I find no comfort in freedom’s wide horizons.

The Lancastrian royal line is no more.

Except for Margaret. And her Tudor son.

I clutch the strap until it chafes my palm red. God’s wounds, Margaret carries the last of the royal Lancastrian blood in her veins. But as a mere woman, she cannot muster men to support her claim to the throne. England will not tolerate a warrior queen.

But Henry Tudor as a warrior prince? She would think so. “We are here, Belle-maman.” Meg’s soft voice carries over the slopping of water against the side of the barge. “We are at the Tower.”

Author Bio:

Elizabeth St.John spends her time between California, England, and the past. An acclaimed author, historian, and genealogist, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Lydiard Park and Nottingham Castle to Richmond Palace and the Tower of London to inspire her novels. Although the family sold a few country homes along the way (it’s hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth’s family still occupy them— in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their legacy. And the occasional ghost. But that’s a different story.

Having spent a significant part of her life with her seventeenth-century family while writing The Lydiard Chronicles trilogy and Counterpoint series, Elizabeth St.John is now discovering new family stories with her fifteenth-century namesake Elysabeth St.John Scrope, and her half-sister, Margaret Beaufort.

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Thank you Elizabeth for a fascinating peek into your new book and insight into one of England’s most notorious historical mysteries

4 thoughts on “The Godmother’s Secret

  1. I’m very pleased to host your ‘glimpse’ Elizabeth. My mother was a Richard III fan and member of the R III society. Some of her thinking rubbed off on me, so I will read ‘The Godmother’s Secret’ hoping he comes out in the clear.

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