Since junior school history of all ages has fascinated me, from ancient history to modern, showing how little emotions and motives have changed through the epochs. Later, I came to be particularly entranced by the Tudor and late-Plantagenet periods. I read all the history books I could get hold of and hungered to actually read the contemporary accounts and letters for myself.

My first foray into a primary source after I left school was the Life of Wolsey by Cavendish which also incorporated his evident dislike of Anne Boleyn. I was hooked but, from the first, I found reading primary sources led me to the realisation I did not necessarily concur with conclusions reached by some of the historians whose books I had read. I wanted to find out for myself. My avid interest soon led me to the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII (printed in the 1800s). In seventh heaven I delved for myself and reached my own conclusions. I found, as many do, the fascination of revelation and have long failed to understand why screenplays, documentaries and other programmes have to fictionalise or change the sequence of events and even make two people one as indeed one series did. Why? The facts generally are more intriguing, absorbing and surpass expectations.

Ludlow Castle. (c. Author’s collection, The Tudor Socialite, Amberley Publishing)

The Tudors became a major passion. The book I first submitted to Amberley was turned down but while ‘talking’ to the person who became my editor (and I really thank him) I said, almost in passing, that I had been working on another idea. That kind friends listening to my ramblings (or should that be grumblings) about what was or was not accurate, or employing me as their very own guide when visiting historic places said they wished I would use my journalistic and editorial skills to write a history book that did not have conclusions or theories but just gave an accurate portrayal of key events without being too heavy; to just enjoy reading about the monarchs, interesting characters and events, ceremonies, the food, the clothes, the tragedies, the love affairs, scandals and deaths.

Between the two of us, the idea turned into The Tudor Socialite to be in a format that was readable and easy-to-digest providing eye-witness accounts of pastimes and topics that might today appear in society pages with a little insight into what made the Tudor monarchs tick. I hope readers, as I did, will find entries that enthral, amuse, shock and entertain, perhaps even make you laugh or make you want to cry. All human emotions are portrayed while telling people’s stories within the context of their own times.

Gainsborough Old Hall. Kateryn Parr once lived there, and Katheryne Howard visited on the long Northern Progress. (c. Author’s collection, The Tudor Socialite, Amberley Publishing)

For myself, to my everlasting shock, I found I liked Henry VII after believing I disliked him for most of my lifetime. It was he who commissioned John Cabot to sail in quest of ‘new islands’. Henry VIII devised his own medicines and wrote a prescription book; he also founded the Royal College of Physicians. Edward VI as he was revealed to me through his diary, his letters and the French Ambassador’s comments was not cold-hearted but a typically boisterous lad interested in military events whose death was heartrending. As indeed was that of Lady Jane Grey. Mr Underhill I had never heard of before writing this book and was glad to be able to tell readers how he had carried a delicately baked pasty of red deer at the wedding of Mary I to Philip which being untouched he was allowed to send to his wife and brother which they shared with friends. I never knew before that Elizabeth, before she was queen, asked her sister if she was to be beheaded she might have an executioner brought from France like her mother, Anne Boleyn. And writing about the Armada using both English and Spanish journals, I admit I laughed when the Spanish refusing to be rescued called the English ‘Lutheran hens’ and dared them to come to close quarters and fight even as they were sinking and at the English, after being victorious, producing commemorative medals saying of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, the Spanish Admiral ‘He Came. He saws. He fled.’

Jan-Marie Knights's book The Tudor Socialite: A Social Calendar of Tudor Life is available for purchase now.