Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guest Blog: Katherine Longshore

I have the pleasure of having Katherine Longshore on Simply Books. Katherine is the 2012 debut author of Gilt and today she will be discussing one of my favorite subjects, the Tudors!

Thank you, Megan, for having me on your blog!  It is always such a joy to connect with other people who love books, but more so when I find someone as obsessed with Tudor fiction as I am.

Why do we find the Tudors so fascinating in general?  And Henry VIII and his succession of ill-fated wives in particular?  I have my theories, and thanks to Megan, I have a place to share them:

The Tudors are opulent.  Dazzling.  Gorgeous.  All those rich fabrics – velvets and silks and brocades.  The sumptuous colors – crimson and midnight blue, gold and silver and deep purple.  The gowns with long, luxurious trains, sleeves of flowing silk, all decorated with gold braid, pearls and jewels.  Those doublets with cinched-in waists and broad shoulders.  And jewelry.  Coronets and rings, brooches, bracelets, necklaces and diamond collars.

The Tudors are sexy.  Even before Showtime gave us Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Henry Cavill, the historical period grabbed the collective prurient curiosity.  A King with six wives?  Half of whom he left/divorced/beheaded so he could marry the next one?  A royal court in which flirtation won popularity and acclaim and sexual innuendoes were tossed like golden coins to those not clever enough to think of them?  Men in tights!  And codpieces.  Let’s not forget codpieces.  The very quintessence of sexual suggestion.

The Tudors changed the world. They changed religion.  They changed political geography (Virginia, anyone?  Named after Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen).  They changed the very idea of marriage and relationships between men and women.  Whatever else we can say about him, Henry married for love more times than not.  This was virtually unheard of – previously, marriage in the sixteenth century was based entirely on political/economic alliance.  For commoners as well as kings.

The Tudors remind us of ourselves.  They were selfish, ambitious, ill-tempered and cruel.  They were generous, beautiful, diligent and thoughtful.  They loved music, theater, sports and games.  They enjoyed the out-of-doors.  They created heart-breaking poetry.  They spent a great deal of time at war.

But I think what has always fascinated me most about the Tudors is how they are viewed by history.  And I have always wondered, what if that isn’t true?

Historians describe Catherine Howard as a promiscuous, empty-headed flirt.  They use words like harebrained and frivolous, bubbly and silly.  I looked at contemporary accounts and saw a girl who wore a new dress every day, was showered in jewels by her husband, insisted on court parties and plays and (horror of horrors) had relationships before she married the king.  I didn’t see harebrained and silly.  I saw myself as a teenager.  I loved clothes and shoes.  I went to parties.  I fell in love more than once.

I asked myself what if Catherine Howard was a cunning, ambitious, sensual girl?  And then I asked: what if she was the Queen Bee before she became Queen?

And that is how GILT was born.

The opulence and the sexiness and the changing social mores and the similarities to the modern world just made it that much more fun to write.

Thank you so much for visiting, Katherine. I'm really looking forward to reading your new book. Don't forget to follow her on Twitter!

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