The Queen’s Devil is the third in the William Constable series. William, recently married, has settled into routine work as a physician when he is requested to attend two prisoners in the Tower of London. Both are accused of separate acts treason, but their backgrounds suggest there may be a connection.
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“Walker skilfully creates a treacherous world of half-truths, plots and duplicity… simmering with impending danger.“
“The 3 books had me totally hooked! Loved the way the story telling was combined with actual events. I wanted to believe the fictional William and Helen were real people. Look forward to reading more….“
“Full of glorious detail of food, entertainment, medicine and the finer points of educated conversation, Paul Walker’s research is meticulous as he captures the reality of daily life for a Tudor physician…“
Here’s an excerpt:
William and Helen Constable have been invited to an entertainment at Sir Francis Walsingham’s house in Seething Lane
It is Walsingham’s daughter, Frances, together with her new husband, Sir Phillip Sidney, who welcome us in the great hall at Seething Lane. They are a handsome couple who seem happy with their new status; Frances clinging close to one of Sidney’s arms in case her unexpected and newly-discovered treasure should disappear. She is quick to engage Helen in conversation, and while Helen cannot match the exceptional colour and glitter of her dress, she more than compensates with the endowments of nature. To my eyes, she is a vision of loveliness, and I have seldom seen her to such advantage with a lustrous glow to her features. Helen and Frances are soon taken up with excited talk about the entertainment and Sidney takes me to one side.
‘Doctor Constable, I have a particular friend I should like you to meet.’ He gazes around the chamber. There will be over thirty gathered here, and I see only a handful of familiar faces. He turns back and says, ‘But he is otherwise engaged for the present.’ He hands me a glass of red wine. ‘You are most fortunate in your choice of partner for the marriage bed. Helen has a rare beauty, coupled with a pleasing manner.’
I have seen, but not spoken to Sidney before this. Such directness from a new acquaintance would be shocking, but he has an easy way about him that encourages openness and familiarity. ‘We are both blessed in that regard, Sir Phillip, most especially when our pride and contentment is returned in equal measure.’
‘Well spoken, Doctor. I see that we will be friends.’ I bow my head to acknowledge this unusually warm introduction to one so well-connected. ‘I regret I have not read your learned papers on the mathematics of the stars, but Sir Francis has told of your quick mind. I understand you have assisted him in matters of security and danger to our state.’
‘That was some years past. My work on physic has left little space for mathematics or intelligencing in recent times. I regret the putting aside of one diversion, but not the other.’
‘Ah, yes,’ he raises a hand to acknowledge understanding, ‘it takes a special mind to relish the deception and double-dealing necessary in safeguarding our sovereign against hidden threats. We will talk of lighter matters.’ He gestures to a curtained area at the far end of the hall. ‘Do you enjoy theatrical performances?’
‘I have witnessed only two plays, and I confess both brought only mild delight in their storytelling and poetry. It may be that my philosophical inclination does not lend itself to a proper appreciation of such entertainment. Nevertheless, Helen has keen anticipation for the musical drama you have planned here, and I have been caught up in her eagerness.’
My answer comes quickly. I wonder if I should have feigned greater interest. Sidney is known for his love of the courtly arts. He stares for a moment as though expecting more, then smiles, claps me on the shoulder and says, ‘It is an entertainment with a title of Sapho and Phao, written by John Lyly. He is a playwright of note who produces fine phrasing and pleasing music in his work. I trust it will advance your opinion on this form of amusement.’
There is a short pause in our discussion as he scans the chamber. I say, ‘Does Sir Francis enjoy theatrical entertainments? I was surprised to note its mention on his invitation.’
‘Ha, he tolerates it for my sake and to please his daughter.’ He lowers his voice. ‘My father-in-law is not a well man, William. He will have thoughts of his end on this earth. While he remains hard and steadfast on Her Majesty’s service, some of his views on lesser matters have softened.’
I catch sight of Walsingham holding attention as he gesticulates with his arms in a group some twenty paces away. He is smaller than I remember, and his shoulders appear narrow and pinched. He is lost from view as more enter the hall. A slim, dark-haired man with delicate features holds up his hand and approaches.
Sidney says, ‘Ah, you are free at last, Gio. William Constable, this is the renowned Giordano Bruno, who was most insistent you be included in this gathering. You have much to discuss, and I will leave you to greet our other guests.’
Bruno clasps his hands in thanks to Sidney, then offers me an extravagant bow. ‘Doctor Constable, it is a joy to meet with you. Forgive my rudeness in not replying directly to your note. I have been whirled and transported to many fascinating experiences since my arrival. I am dizzy like a child with too many playthings.’
A petite man, he is much younger than my imagining and clothed in colourful, high-quality garments. He is perhaps my age, but a head shorter with a smooth complexion and a neat beard. His appearance is so far removed from the austere drabness of a Dominican Friar; it is difficult to accept he once held that station in life.