My new release, Anthony, Earl of Crofton, is set in 1604, during the first few years of the Stuart era. Now the previous settings for Anthony’s adventures (those in my other series The Crofton Chronicles) were at the end of Elizabeth I’s reign, so the very end of the Tudor period, but what did a few years matter? As I set about researching the novel, I did ask myself the same question – was life so different? For normal people, the day to day life was probably not so different, surviving rather than living in many cases, and not just in the sense of not succumbing to the plague. Every day life would change a few decades later with the civil war, but for Anthony, as noble who was a favourite of the old queen, a new monarch would be a very different proposition.
Sources from the time talk of the new king being a breath of fresh air after the old queen, but also argumentative and not exactly good looking. There are also reference to him having male favourites, and recently a hidden passage was found linking King James’s room to another man’s in one of the palaces, so very likely bisexual. So he was very different to his predecessor, and Anthony would have used all his charm to make sure his cherish position at court was not lost. He manages to walk the difficult line and still be the darling of the new court.
In this extract Anthony has been called to the palace – to see the king:
“Ah, Lord Crofton. You arrive promptly as ever. I am sure His Majesty will appreciate you attending him.”
Anthony knew to be cautious. Dorset had been one of the men who had presided over the trial of Walter Raleigh for treason against the king. He’d not only survived the political upheaval of the coronation of a new monarch but had thrived.
“I am a servant of the Crown, my lord. There was never a question of my tarrying to see the king.”
Dorset chuckled, the long hair of his beard quivering. “Indeed not, but I sense a great unease about you. Fear not, Lord Crofton, your help is required, not your head. Follow me.”
Despite being close to three score and ten, Dorset moved with the grace and strength of a younger man, sweeping down the corridor towards a door guarded by a soldier. Dorset’s words were of some comfort, but until Anthony knew the reason for his summons, he would not allow himself to breathe easy.
He followed in silence, Dorset ordering the guard to step aside so they could enter. The king sat in a chair by the fireplace, handing a stack of parchment to his secretary.
“Lord Crofton is here,” announced Dorset.
Anthony removed his hat and bowed low to the king. James extended his hand, and Anthony did as expected and kissed it before straightening. “Your Majesty.”
James was a spritely king, only a few years Anthony’s senior, which made a great contrast to the aging queen he had succeeded. James was not unattractive, but neither was he a beauty. His small build and spindly legs made for some unkind comments, spoken in whispers and never to his face. Anthony found him charming, but then he had seen the king’s stare linger on him in an appreciative manner, and it never hurt to have that sort of attention from the monarch. Anthony waited while James dismissed his secretary.
“Lord Crofton, a pleasure as always to have your company,” James said, now it was just the three of them. “I fear, though, today our discussions will not be as free and merry as their predecessors. I will need to call on your loyalty and support.”
“Both are freely given, sire.”