Wednesday 20 May 2015

Blog Tour: The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements

TitleThe Silvered Heart
Author: Katherine Clements
Published: 7th May 2015
Publisher: Headline

So today is my stop on the Blog Tour for The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements and I have a fabulous post on The Real Wicked Lady? The legend behind the book. The other tour stops are listed below, so please do stop by their blogs for some other great content.

The Real Wicked Lady?

Katherine Clements

The popular legend of Lady Katherine Ferrers is classic high romance: a young, orphaned heiress is forced into a marriage of convenience, her inheritance squandered by a neglectful, dissolute husband. Desperate and frustrated, she finds escape and adventure with a dashing local highwayman.

But there is no happily ever after for our heroine. Her lover is hanged. Driven insane with grief, she dies tragically, shot during a hold up. Her body is discovered at the foot of a concealed staircase, at her family home, Markyate Cell. She is buried, shrouded in secrecy and shame, to be remembered ever after as the wandering ghost of local folklore: the Wicked Lady.

It’s an adventure that has inspired novels and films, the most famous, a 1945 version starring James Mason and Margaret Lockwood. But the life of the real woman to whom the legend has most often been pinned, tells a different tale. Katherine Ferrers certainly suffered grief, hardship, and the devastation of a family fortune, as did many women during the English Civil War and its aftermath, but did she really turn to crime? And what does her story tell us about the position and fate of women during this tumultuous time in British history?

 Margaret Lockwood as The Wicked Lady, 1945

Those are the questions that intrigued me when I first encountered the legend some years ago. Delving deeper I found that we know very little about the real Katherine, but there is enough information to piece together a picture of her life. We can trace her from Hertfordshire origins, via Oxford, Cambridgeshire and London, to her final resting place at Ware. Her family connections to prominent Royalists gave me insight into her intimate circle and her likely experiences and attitudes during the civil wars and the difficult years that followed. We know something of her financial hardship, her husband’s involvement in Royalist conspiracy rings and military uprisings, and his resulting imprisonment in the Tower. The challenge and opportunity for me was to merge these tantalising facts with the fiction.

The only known portrait of Katherine Ferrers, now at Valence House Museum.

It’s easy to imagine the scenario as legend tells it. The English Revolution really did turn the world upside down for many people, and for more than a decade, aristocratic families who believed they had a right to their inherited status and wealth found their estates taken away, heavy fines and taxes imposed, and in some cases, no choice but to live a life of poverty in exile. Married women, considered the property of their husbands, and with no means of their own, were forced to cope with painfully reduced circumstances that were the very opposite of the life they had been raised to expect. It’s not unreasonable to conceive that some may have taken matters into their own hands.

I’ll be clear: The Silvered Heart is not a biography; it’s a work of imagination and I make no claim that my version of Katherine’s life is the truth. The book is my attempt to answer these questions: What if Katherine really was a highway robber? What would have driven a woman to such extreme lengths? And what might have been the devastating results?

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