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The Dartington Bride

Author Rosemary Griggs brings the French Wars of Religion to thrilling life

The Dartington Bride

I’m happy to welcome author Rosemary Griggs to the blog today for a look behind the scenes of her exciting new novel, The Dartington Bride. Rosemary is an expert on Tudor history and takes a particular interest in the rich layers of history in and around Devon, England. I love seeing her dressed in historical garb on social media and I’m always intrigued by her research discoveries.

Read on for an article by Rosemary about the inspirations underpinning The Dartington Bride, the latest novel in her Daughters of Devon collection about fascinating sixteenth-century women.

The Dartington Bride

1571, and the beautiful, headstrong daughter of a French Count marries the son of the Vice Admiral of the Fleet of the West in Queen Elizabeth’s chapel at Greenwich. It sounds like a marriage made in heaven…

Roberda’s father, the Count of Montgomery, is a prominent Huguenot leader in the French Wars of Religion. When her formidable mother follows him into battle, she takes all her children with her.

After a traumatic childhood in war-torn France, Roberda arrives in England full of hope for her wedding. But her ambitious bridegroom, Gawen, has little interest in taking a wife.

Received with suspicion by the servants at her new home, Dartington Hall in Devon, Roberda works hard to prove herself as mistress of the household and to be a good wife. But there are some who will never accept her as a true daughter of Devon.

After the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Gawen’s father welcomes Roberda’s family to Dartington as refugees. Compassionate Roberda is determined to help other French women left destitute by the wars. But her husband does not approve. Their differences will set them on an extraordinary path…

Ghostly inspiration at Dartington Hall and Berry Pomeroy Castle

With the title of my latest novel in the ‘Daughters of Devon’ series being ‘The Dartington Bride,’ it comes as no surprise that a lot of the action takes place in the stunning medieval manor house at Dartington. However, another favourite Devon location also plays a prominent role in my story.

Berry Pomeroy Castle

Located just 5 miles from Dartington, the enchanting ruins of Berry Pomeroy Castle are well-known as one of England’s most haunted destinations. Perched high above Devon’s densely wooded Gatcombe Valley, the remnants of a castle constructed by the Pomeroy family during the Wars of the Roses, encircle the bare structure of a graceful Elizabethan mansion. Even on a sunny March day, the ancient stone walls seem to whisper with the echoes of long-forgotten footsteps. The rugged turrets stretch towards the clear blue sky, allowing sunlight to filter through the empty spaces where elegant glazed windows once sparkled.

In the sixteenth century, Lord Protector Seymour, brother of Queen Jane, acquired the estate. Protector Seymour married twice. His first marriage with Catherine Fillol ended in scandalous circumstances. He accused her of adultery, casting doubt on the parentage of their two eldest sons, John and Edward. Some sources suggest that Catherine’s lover was Seymour’s own father, John. Regardless of the truth behind these allegations, Catherine withdrew to a nunnery and, a few years later, she died.

Seymour, also known as the Duke of Somerset, was executed for treason in 1552. The sons of his second marriage to Anne Stanhope eventually inherited most of his wealth and titles. (Following this family can be confusing, as Seymour had two sons named Edward, one with each of his wives.)

After the death of the eldest boy, John, the property at Berry Pomeroy came to Seymour’s second son from the first marriage, Edward, known as Lord Seymour. He secured the lands after a lengthy legal tussle, but inherited little else. Lord Seymour went on to build a magnificent Tudor mansion within the castle ruins. The preference of his half brother’s clearly rankled with him. The Berry Pomeroy branch of the family continued to dispute their inheritance for generations.

My novel tells the story of a young French Huguenot woman, named Roberda, who marries Gawen Champernowne. The connection with Berry Pomeroy lies in the marriage of Edward Lord Seymour’s son, yet another Edward, to Elizabeth Champernowne. Elizabeth, known as Bess in my story, was the daughter of Sir Arthur Champernowne. She was Gawen’s sister. The two women become friends as Roberda settles into a new, and often difficult, life as Mistress of Dartington Hall.

Above: Elizabeth Champernwone, wife of Edward Seymour of Berry Pomerory (1563-1613), as depicted on a monument in St Mary’s church, Berry Pomeroy.

There was a significant age gap between Elizabeth and the young Edward Seymour. They were betrothed as children, but it seems from letters in the Cecil collection that there were last-minute difficulties in agreeing the marriage settlement. Lord Edward wanted Sir Arthur to include lands in the package on offer with his daughter. Sir Arthur offered 1000 marks, but not the desired land. They were still wrangling about the deal a week before the wedding, though it appears there had already been a secret betrothal, unbeknown to Lord Edward. 

On 22 September 1576 Sir Arthur Champernowne requested Lord Burghley’s good offices with Lord Edward Seymour, ‘whose son he wishes to match with his daughter’. They must have resolved everything, because the marriage took place at Dartington a week later. The couple had nine children, five boys and four daughters. Sadly, two of the children died in infancy. 

Elizabeth (Bess) spent a lot of time at Berry Pomeroy, where her husband added a splendid new wing to his father’s mansion, including a remarkable Elizabethan long gallery. Unfortunately it has not survived. However, my recent visit to Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, which boasts its own long gallery, helped me to imagine Bess strolling with her companions at Berry Pomeroy.

Above: The long gallery at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire

When it comes to walking in Berry Pomeroy, there are many accounts of eerie occurrences and sightings of ghostly women wandering among the ruins. One particular tale tells of Elinor Pomeroy imprisoning her sister Matilda, who now appears as the White Lady, in a dungeon beneath the chapel in the gatehouse, where she was abandoned and left to rot. In later versions of the story, the sister’s name changes to Margaret, and the dungeon is relocated to St. Margaret’s Tower.

Unfortunately, the myths don’t really hold true. St Margaret’s tower was never a dank dungeon, nor does it have a dark and troubled history. It was merely a gun emplacement covering the approach from the South and the gatehouse. But people continue to report strange feelings along the wall walk and in the tower.

The White Lady is not the only woman thought to haunt the castle. According to reports, the eminent physician Sir Walter Farquhar met another apparition while he was at Berry Pomeroy attending the ailing wife of the castle’s steward in the late eighteenth century. The Blue Lady is supposed to be a Pomeroy lady who strangled her child.

I’m not usually a great believer in this sort of thing, but I have to say there is something in the air at Berry Pomeroy that can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. There’s a good chance that some stories are recent inventions. However, there was such symmetry between the story of a woman locked in a room in the creeper-clad ruins of St Margaret’s Tower and reports of other ghostly happenings at Dartington Hall itself that I couldn’t overlook it.

Above: The view from the Countess’s Room, Dartington Hall

For generations, people have known a particular room at Dartington Hall as ‘The Countess’s Room.’ The Champernowne family continued to live at Dartington Hall until 1925. Through the generations, they have passed down a chilling ghost story about this room. It speaks of unsettling footsteps that reverberate through its walls, and sometimes even from the nursery above. The Champernownes have also shared tales of a woman who was once a prisoner within the walls of their home—a narrative that bears an uncanny resemblance to the legend of the White Lady of Berry Pomeroy.

Roberda’s mother, Isabeau, Countess of Montgomery, found a refuge at Dartington in 1572 after the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre, thanks to the warm welcome of Sir Arthur Champernowne. However, my research shows that she returned a few years later during a bleak period in her life. It’s possible that the formidable presence of Isabeau does still haunt this room, or perhaps it’s the memory of her daughter Roberda, who married Sir Arthur’s son, that sends a shiver down my spine as I stand at the window.

I have spent many happy hours at Dartington Hall as a volunteer garden guide. I am grateful to the Dartington Trust for allowing me to explore behind the scenes when researching for my novel, The Dartington Bride. Berry Pomeroy Castle is in the care of English Heritage. I strongly recommend a visit to both of these Devon gems, and to St Mary’s Church, Berry Pomeroy, to see the somewhat overpowering Seymour monument.

Where to buy the book:

Universal Buy Link: 

About the author:

Author and speaker Rosemary Griggs has been researching Devon’s sixteenth-century history for years. She has discovered a cast of fascinating characters and an intriguing network of families whose influence stretched far beyond the West Country and loves telling the stories of the forgotten women of history – the women beyond the royal court; wives, sisters, daughters and mothers who played their part during those tumultuous Tudor years: the Daughters of Devon. 

Her novel A Woman of Noble Wit tells the story of Katherine Champernowne, Sir Walter Raleigh’s mother, and features many of the county’s well-loved places. 

Rosemary creates and wears sixteenth-century clothing, a passion which complements her love for bringing the past to life through a unique blend of theatre, history and re-enactment. Her appearances and talks for museums and community groups all over the West Country draw on her extensive research into sixteenth-century Devon, Tudor life and Tudor dress, particularly Elizabethan. 

Out of costume, Rosemary leads heritage tours of the gardens at Dartington Hall, a fourteenth-century manor house and now a visitor destination and charity supporting learning in arts, ecology and social justice.


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  1. Rosemary Griggs says:

    thank you for hosting a stop on my blog tour

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      It was a pleasure, Rosemary!

  2. Cathie Dunn says:

    Thanks so much for hosting Rosemary Griggs today. What an interesting post!

    Take care,
    Cathie xo
    The Coffee Pot Book Club

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