In the Shadow of Lady Jane

In 1551 the population of England and Wales was only 3 million, and more than in any other period of English history, patronage by the nobility, and especially by the King, could transform the life of an educated and opportunistic young man beyond all imagining.

Richard Stocker’s chance came in April 1551, when Lady Jane Grey, together with her parents and two sisters, visited one of the family’s possessions, Shute House, in Devon. In gratitude for saving the lives of his daughters in a storm, Lord Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset and later to become Duke of Suffolk, took Richard into his employment, and he rose up within the family to become the Duke’s personal secretary, and to meet King Edward VI on a number of occasions.

In 1553, Lady Jane Grey’s claim to the throne was overturned by Queen Mary Tudor, who imprisoned her in the Tower of London.

During her 7 months imprisonment, two ladies in waiting, a nurse, and a young male servant accompanied her. Richard Stocker was that loyal servant and remained with her until he witnessed her execution in February 1554.

In the Shadow of Lady Jane traces the impact on a young man of being caught up in the melee of change, as the Protestant King Edward VI was replaced by the fiercely Catholic Queen Mary Tudor, an experience which was to change him deeply and strongly influence the rest of his life in more ways that one.

Into the Lion’s Cage: Holbein in the Tudor Court

Hans Holbein came to London in 1526 and died there seventeen years later, having lived in the city for most of the intervening years. This volume follows his life for the first ten years of that period, until 1536 when the king was injured, Queen Anne Boleyn was executed, and everything fell apart.

Holbein was an outsider; a German, arriving in a very foreign land and not speaking the language. His priority was to find employment and accommodation. Rich patrons were the path to both and he arrived bearing a letter of introduction to Sir Thomas More. During his stay, the places where he lived and the people he lived amongst had a strong influence on his daily life. For that reason, this book is broken into sections; each referring to the place he called home for that period of time.

He began in Chelsea – living in the household of Sir Thomas More. Then he returned to Basel, only to find it no longer felt like home. Returning to England, he rented a house in Maiden Lane – close to The Steelyard and his German friends, until Thomas Cromwell invited him to join his household in Austin Friars. But even then there was disruption, because Cromwell, having recently become Master of the Rolls, and planning extensive rebuilding of his house at Austin Friars, moved the whole household lock, stock and barrel across the city to The Rolls House in Chancery Lane and it was there that Holbein went to live.

He was to remain at Chancery Lane until 1536, a year in which Henry VIII unexpectedly reached middle age and sustained a jousting wound which changed his life; a year in which Anne Boleyn was executed, and it seemed, the whole world turned upside-down.

Holbein was a serious and straightforward man. He believed fervently in truth, honesty and loyalty. But having seen his artist father bankrupted and his brother, also an artist, commit suicide due to lack of success, he felt driven to succeed and moved to England where the opportunities were said to be better, leaving his wife and family behind.

But the England he finds is in turmoil. The wheel of fortune seems to be spinning out of control. Men who have only recently risen to power suddenly fall from favour or, even worse, are executed. Factions emerge, blossom, then unexpectedly disappear again. Alliances are formed as opportunities are perceived, only to be discarded just as easily. Which man is your friend and which your enemy? Where, in all this confusion, is the prospect of truth? Who, in this turmoil, can afford the luxury of honesty? And as today’s esteemed patron becomes tomorrow’s rejected outcast, what possible price can a dependent German painter put on loyalty?

Magnificence & Power: Holbein in the Tudor Court Vol 2

The story continues. It’s the summer of 1536 and everyone in and around the Tudor Court is trying to come to terms with the execution of Anne Boleyn and her immediate replacement by Jane Seymour. Suddenly the Seymour family is in high fashion while the Boleyns are left sulking nervously ion the very edge of Society.

Recently appointed as The King’s Painter, Hans Holbein is now at the very centre of the court. Guided by his mentor and protector, Thomas Cromwell, he is busy expressing the king’s new motto; Magnificence & Power.

Increasingly, as the months pass, knowing the king’s will turns into guessing the king’s mind, and when Cromwell gets it wrong, by choosing Anne of Cleves as the king’s fifth wife, it is his turn to be executed.

Now Holbein finds himself alone, and tainted by the same event. For it was Holbein’s portrait of the lady that was shown to the king, and which, in his mind, helped to mislead him into an unsuited marriage.

Slowly the storm blows over, Henry marries Catryn Parr and Holbein survives, albeit largely ignored and without work. Then, slowly, small indications here and there suggest that an opportunity may yet arise for the painter to redeem himself.

But will it?

Wherever possible, images of the relevant Holbein drawing or painting have been shown in the text as they appear in the story. For this reason, both volumes have been written in i-Author, and are therefore only available as i-Books from the Apple i-Bookstore.

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