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The Godmother’s Secret

discover Elizabeth St.John's exciting new novel

What if you knew what happened to the princes in the tower? Would you tell? Or would you forever keep the secret?

Today, I’m celebrating the launch of Elizabeth St.John’s fabulous new novel The Godmother’s Secret.

November, 1470: Westminster Abbey. Lady Elysabeth Scrope faces a perilous royal duty when ordered into sanctuary with Elizabeth Woodville–witness the birth of Edward IV’s Yorkist son. Margaret Beaufort, Elysabeth’s sister, is desperately seeking a pardon for her exiled son Henry Tudor. Strategically, she coerces Lancastrian Elysabeth to be appointed godmother to Prince Edward, embedding her in the heart of the Plantagenets and uniting them in a destiny of impossible choices and heartbreaking conflict.

Bound by blood and torn by honour, when the king dies and Elysabeth delivers her young godson into the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation, she is engulfed in political turmoil. Within months, the prince and his brother have disappeared, Richard III is declared king, and Margaret conspires with Henry Tudor to invade England and claim the throne. Desperate to protect her godson, Elysabeth battles the intrigue, betrayal and power of the last medieval court, defying her husband and her sister under her godmother’s sacred oath to keep Prince Edward safe.

Were the princes murdered by their uncle, Richard III? Was the rebel Duke of Buckingham to blame? Or did Margaret Beaufort mastermind their disappearance to usher in the Tudor dynasty? Of anyone at the royal court, Elysabeth has the most to lose–and the most to gain–by keeping secret the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

The story behind the novel

Inspired by England’s most enduring historical mystery, Elizabeth St.John, best-selling author of The Lydiard Chronicles, blends her own family history with known facts and centuries of speculation to create an intriguing alternative story illuminating the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower.

I recently read an advance copy of The Godmother’s Secret, and I was mesmerized. It is an absolutely fabulous piece of storytelling, with beautiful writing, powerful characterization, and unparalleled world building.

In a few weeks, I’ll post an interview with Elizabeth St.John in which she reveals the research and inspiration behind the book, including details about her family connections to Elysabeth Scrope and Margaret Beaufort.

Please enjoy the following excerpt of this stunning tale.

Excerpt from The Godmother’s Secret

King Edward died suddenly, and Lady Elysabeth Scrope was commanded by his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to escort Prince Edward to the Palace of the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation.

Chapter 13

Spring 1483 | The Palace of The Tower

I hesitate at the threshold of the great hall, seeing this time what fear obscured on my last visit. Marble pillars soar to support huge wooden rafters, cut like ship’s joists, the ceiling’s ribs floating on a sea of air. Light dazzles through clear glazed arched windows, pooling into a lake of sunshine on the shimmering flagstones. A fanfare of trumpets echoes through the stone walls, a customary greeting for the new King of England as he takes up residence in his royal palace. Harry and Ned step towards two figures on the dais at the far end of the great hall, and I follow closely behind.

The light from the clerestory windows dazzles, and I squint to see who is standing before me. There is Gloucester, unmistakable in his form. But surely that is not my sister on his right? I quicken my pace to catch up with Ned and Harry.

Dear God, it is Margaret. And looking every inch the royal Beaufort heiress in both her gown and demeanour.

My sister sweeps a deep formal curtsey as Ned approaches. “Your Grace.”

Margaret’s headdress is pure white; a tracery of the Beaufort portcullis is embroidered into her cloak’s burgundy velvet lining. Her gown is a priceless black silk with a kirtle of silver tissue. A striking rosary of gold and rubies on a long chain hangs from her waist. She raises herself, her head bowed, ignoring my outstretched hand and half-uttered greeting.

Gloucester drops to a knee. “My nephew. My king. Welcome.”

“My Lord Gloucester,” Ned replies. “Uncle. I thank you for bringing me safely to London, to my people, and to the Tower to prepare me for my coronation.”

Gloucester gets to his feet, his eyes fixed upon the prince’s face, Margaret standing like a statue at his side. There is my sister’s enigmatic smile again, one that I last saw when she condemned me to sanctuary to be housed with our York enemies. Why is Margaret in the Tower, welcoming Ned? And why has she not told me of her plans? She has had plenty of time to write to me at the Bishop’s Palace.

“And my Lady Stanley.” Ned holds his hand out for Margaret to kiss. “What a pleasure to be able to greet you personally. My father respected your husband as one of his most loyal lords. I hope he will serve on my council too.”

“He awaits your command, Your Grace,” replies Margaret. “Our family look forward to supporting you and your protector in the coming years as you take your rightful place on England’s throne.”

I raise an eyebrow, turn my head before my expression reveals my thoughts. Margaret’s ability to negotiate these changing alliances is remarkable. Her marriage to Lord Stanley assumes today even more importance than when King Edward was alive. Now she is pledging the significant Stanley loyalty to Ned’s reign. Of course, that would also include the opportunity to ask him directly to bring her own son home. Margaret’s God has answered her prayers.

Ned inclines his head. “Thank you, Lady Stanley. And speaking of family, your sister has taken such perfect care of me. You will be glad to hear she has guided my spiritual well-being with a mother’s love. If not for her, I do not think I would have travelled so willingly to London. She comforted me in the absence of Lord Rivers and encouraged me to temper my mourning and embrace my destiny.”

Margaret inclines her head but does not look at me. “I am delighted, Your Grace. And I trust my nephew Buckingham has been equally solicitous?”

Am I the only one who notices Ned’s pause?

“Without fail, my lady,” he quietly replies.

“Then my family has safely delivered you from your enemies who wish you harm, securely into the hands of those who love you.” Margaret clasps her rosary before her chest, bows her head in a brief and silent prayer.

“I don’t think the Woodvilles intend harm, nor do they not love Ned,” I respond firmly. Margaret’s insinuations are the last things Ned should hear at this moment. He may turn and ask for his mother to be brought to him immediately. And I have still had not heard why the queen remains in sanctuary, nor have I been able to command a messenger to Westminster to discover more.

“Sister, you may leave the prince with me now. There are conversations about our family we should have that I fear you may have overlooked.” Margaret’s voice is cold.

“Not overlooked, Margaret. Simply recognising there is a time and place for everything.” The moment we meet again, there she goes, pushing her own priorities with little concern for others.

“You may leave.”

Leave? I wonder if I have heard correctly. “I am to see Ned to his lodgings.”

My sister ignores me, continues her instructions. “I shall escort him to the royal apartments. The council has requested I attend him as we prepare for the coronation.” Margaret turns back to Ned. “We have a household to arrange, positions to fill. You have a lot to learn over the coming weeks as you prepare for your anointing. But it is not all business and politics. Now tell me, who do you think should be your hawk master?”

Margaret now guides Ned? The Stanleys have wasted no time in inserting themselves into the heart of the accession.

Ned steps forward as if to embrace me and hesitates.

“Lady Scrope, my thanks,” he says formally. “I will see you next at my coronation.”

I match his serious tone, belying the ache in my heart. For the sake of Ned, this is not the time to challenge Margaret. “I am honoured to have been part of your accession, my lord. Remember your catechism. Know I pray for you daily.” Ned’s hand touches his chest, where he keeps the crucifix concealed. “And be inspired by your father and King Arthur as you prepare to take the throne of England.”

Ned’s lip trembles, and he suddenly clings to me, his fingers fiercely gripping my arms. “I love you,” he whispers. “I love you.”

As I hold him close and tell him I love him too, Gloucester lays his hand on Ned’s shoulder.

“Come, Edward, let us escort you to your lodgings.” He politely nods to me, the informality of our ride south vanishing. “It has been quite a journey, Lady Scrope. I am deeply grateful for your care in escorting the prince to London and now the Tower.”

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Author Bio:

Elizabeth St.John spends her time between California, England, and the past. An acclaimed author, historian, and genealogist, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Lydiard Park and Nottingham Castle to Richmond Palace and the Tower of London to inspire her novels. Although the family sold a few country homes along the way (it’s hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth’s family still occupy them— in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their legacy. And the occasional ghost. But that’s a different story.

Having spent a significant part of her life with her seventeenth-century family while writing The Lydiard Chronicles trilogy and Counterpoint series, Elizabeth St.John is now discovering new family stories with her fifteenth-century namesake Elysabeth St.John Scrope, and her half-sister, Margaret Beaufort.

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Coming soon: blog tour

You can also follow the Coffee Pot Book Club blog tour for The Godmother’s Secret later this month. Learn more about the tour here.

1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth St.John says:

    Amy, thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog and your kind words about my new novel. I loved sharing The Godmother’s Secret with you!

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