Good day to you all! Please welcome 17th-century historical fiction author Anita Davison (who writes as Anita Seymour) to The Seventeenth Century Lady!
I was born in Islington, and hail from a family of Londoners, and although I was brought up in the suburbs, I was fed a diet of family stories about wartime London and the Blitz. My fascination with the 17th Century goes back to those school coach trips to those landmarks all easily reached within a school day. I would visualise the narrow streets with overhanging upper floors, sedan chairs and men in petticoat breeches and long coats with curly wigs strutting across the cobbles of Paternoster Row where rosary beads were once sold. The River Thames, where King Charles II raced his brother the Duke of York to a yacht race from Greenwich to Gravesend and back. The king won.
When I lived and worked in London, one of my favourite places was the National Portrait Gallery where Sir Peter Lely’s portrait of James Scott Duke of Monmouth as a young man hung. The portrait was kept inside the Stuart Royal Gallery but apart, which made me intrigued enough to look up who he was. His story is one of early childhood neglect and poverty, separation from his mother and brought up among strangers, then given all the advantages of a royal child but with the taint of illegitimacy. King Charles II showered him with titles, married him to a very wealthy heiress and James was distinguished himself in battle, showing he was merciful in victory, something his Uncle Prince Rupert could have learned from.
However it still wasn’t enough. James wanted desperately to belong, and convinced himself his parents had married, though all the evidence said otherwise. When I read about his last and final mistake, the rebellion that began in the summer of 1685, when James Scott landed in Lyme Regis with eighty men determined to uphold the Anglican Church against his Catholic uncle, James II, I used it as the backdrop for my first novel.
In The Rebel’s Daughter, Helena Woulfe waves her father, uncle and elder brother off to join the duke, expecting to see them return as conquering heroes. When they are defeated at Sedgemoor, suddenly Helena belongs to a family of traitors. She and her younger brother, Henry leave the city of their birth for London where they have to forge a new life for themselves.
I lived in Exeter at the time and placed Loxsbeare Manor on top of the Weare Cliff where my garden was – well me and nineteen other houses! The Ship Inn, the Guildhall, St Mary Arches church, the city walls, the cathedral and the river, are all still there. The City gates were demolished years ago, but you can still see where they stood.
The sequel, The Goldsmith’s Wife, is the continuing story of my main character, Helena Woulfe, who lives in London during the Glorious Revolution. As a wife and mother, she comes to realise that the social acceptance and respectability she fought so hard for is not enough to make her happy.
Attitudes were very different then, in respect of marriage, religion, human rights, and especially towards women. I had to make the male characters chauvinistic, which may not sit very well now, but in the 1690’s, their outlook would have been normal and right, but I tried to make them likeable too.
If I lived in that era, and what 17th Century novelist doesn’t want that, I would be Sarah Jennings, the Duchess of Marlborough; who was beautiful and adored by her national hero husband in a time when marriage could be unbearable for women. I would behave quite differently, however, to avoid upsetting Queen Anne and being thrown out of Court.
The Rebel’s Daughter
Helena Woulfe, the daughter of a wealthy Exeter nobleman leads a privileged life, however, when rebellion sweeps the West Country, her family is caught in its grip. After Monmouth’s bloody defeat in battle at Sedgemoor, Helena sets off for Somerset to find the three missing members of her family.
With the Woulfe estate confiscated by the crown, Helena and her younger brother Henry hope the anonymity of the capital city will be more forgiving to the children of a convicted rebel. However, Helena finds her search for security and respectability in London are threatened by someone who wishes harm to a traitor’s daughter.
The Goldsmith’s Wife
It is 1688 and in London, and Helena has what she always wanted, respectability and security, although her brothers remain a worry – Aaron schemes in Holland with the Prince of Orange to depose the reigning king James II, and Henry carries his own sorrow, pining for another man’s wife.
Prince William arrives in England to re-establish the Anglican Church, and when anti-Papist riots break out in London, Helena is forced to flee from her home – again.
While Helena strives to keep what she holds dear, can she and her brothers attain what they desire and above all, will they ever learn the fate of their missing Father, who disappeared after the Battle of Sedgemoor?
Anita Davison writes 17th Century novels as Anita Seymour. The Woulfes of Loxsbeare novels and ‘Royalist Rebel’ Her latest venture is an Edwardian cozy mystery series, the first of which is due for release in early 2015
BLOG: The Disorganised Author
FACEBOOK: Anita Davison