A bit of the history behind the story…
As a historical fiction writer, I often get asked “how I know all this stuff.” It’s true that writing in a historical setting does require a great deal of research, most of which I enjoy. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of research, of course, and suddenly look up and realize you’ve spent 2 hours researching how medieval people sealed a tomb, which will take up all of one line in your actual novel. So, in the interest of not letting all that research go to waste, I thought I’d share a little of the history behind my fiction in today’s blog.
I love visiting sites that inspire me to dream, to write, and to imagine the lives of people who lived long ago.
Much of Entrusted, the first book of my newest series, The Relic Guardians, takes place at (or near) Glastonbury Abbey in England.
Glastonbury Abbey was one of the last abbeys to be “dissolved” (i.e., destroyed) under the Dissolution of the Monasteries. For hundreds of years, it was one of the most famous abbeys in England, and was a site of pilgrimage for many.
Among many treasures and relics, it housed the tomb of King Arthur and his wife Guinevere, which were discovered on site during an excavation in the 12th century.
Although the authenticity of the find has since been questioned, for centuries, it was Glastonbury’s claim to fame. The original “tomb” was a large, hollowed log. Clearly, this would not do. A marble tomb was constructed, and King Edward I Eleanor of Aquitaine attended an impressive reburial service that put Arthur’s remains at the foot of the high altar in the abbey.
My story is set sometime later, primarily in 1539, when Henry VIII was king. By this time, his first three wives had all died, and the Dissolution of the Monasteries was well underway. What’s ironic is that, only a few years before, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn actually visited and stayed at Glastonbury during one of their summer progresses. They liked Glastonbury Abbey. But once King Henry was set on a course of action, he did not like to be swayed. Every last abbey in England had to go.
The last abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting, plays a significant (fictional) role in my novel. The major events and dates are true to actual history, though, including that of his death. He was accused of treason—as was most any person of religious importance who did not convert over to the new Church of England. Normally, Abbot Whiting should have been tried by parliament, and could only be deposed by an act of parliament. However, this procedure was ignored in Abbot Whiting’s case (and for many of politically-motivated executions under the reign of Henry VIII). Abbot Whiting held out, refusing to surrender to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on Glastonbury Tor on November 15, 1539.
Today, Glastonbury has fallen into ruin, but what’s left is managed by a trust and is open to the public. Over 100,000 people visit per year.
Have you ever visited a historic site that captured your imagination? Or is there one on your “bucket list” that you simply must see?
Allegra Gray grew up with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds—that is, when she wasn’t focused on more practical things like, say, learning calculus. Perhaps all those stories inspired a spirit of adventure, because at the age of seventeen she embarked on a career journey that has (so far) included serving as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, grad school at Virginia Tech, teaching English, and managing defense contracts in the Middle East. The best thing about this breadth of experience? When she tried her hand at writing novels like the ones she’d always loved, she recognized at once that she’d found a true passion. Her forthcoming series, The Relic Guardians, is genre-bending mainstream/historical suspense, inspired by her long-held desire to unveil things obscured by the mists of time. Allegra is also the author of four historical romances, including the “Daring Damsels” trilogy of Nothing But Scandal, Nothing But Deception, and Nothing But Trouble.
Author: Allegra Gray
Series: Relic Guardians
Genre: Historical Young Adult
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Silverthorne Entertainment
Print Length: 85K
Format: Paperback and Digital
Print ISBN: 978-0692486146
Digital ASIN: B011MSIKQ4
Orphan Audrey Thorndale longs for the peaceful life of a convent, but with a younger brother to care for and England’s religious houses falling one by one to Henry VIII’s Reformation, she’ll have to find another way to serve God and country. The Abbot of Glastonbury, aware of Audrey’s dilemma and loathe to see the great treasures of his abbey looted and destroyed, suggests a plan that could save Audrey, the relics, and even the future of Britain…but if she agrees to it, she’ll have to commit treason.
Second son and sometime adventurer, Tobias Seybourne has never left an opportunity unexplored. He’s won the favor of the king, and is aiming for knighthood, when Abbot Whiting offers him the chance of a lifetime—partner with Audrey, and protect England’s greatest legend. Most importantly? Do it without ever giving the king a reason to suspect more devious purposes simmer beneath Tobias’s charming façade.
With help from the abbot, Audrey and Tobias set in motion a plan to ensure that when the abbey walls crumble, one particular treasure will be safely hidden elsewhere.
But as the abbot points out, the king’s minions keep close account of their plunder, and the contents of Glastonbury’s repository are well documented.
With the king’s men bearing down fast, someone must take the fall…
“You are worried that Glastonbury is in peril, and the treasures it holds will end up in the king’s coffers.”
“Yes—and no.” He eyes me. “It’s more complicated than that. You must not repeat anything you are hearing right now.”
“No, Father Abbot. Never.” If there is one thing I am, it is loyal.
“When I combine what I know—what I, myself have seen and heard—with what the monks who have already lost their homes tell me, I see a future in which certain relics of Glastonbury never make it to the king’s coffers, but are destroyed instead.” He shakes his head sadly. “The idea that the holy relics would go into the king’s hands was disturbing enough, but to destroy them? Sacrilege.
“Again, I must emphasize the importance of not repeating this conversation—to anyone. Not even Sam. The Treason Act is too loosely interpreted these days to take chances.”
I gulp, cursing myself for giving in to curiosity. Now it is my hands that tremble. I should tell him to stop, that I don’t want to hear any more, but my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth. I should never have asked what was troubling him. And yet, I have the sense we have set on an irrevocable course, and I must see it through.
Finally, I pry my tongue loose. “I appreciate your honesty, Father Abbot.”
“Should Glastonbury fall, the treasures that can be measured in gold and silver will most certainly find a new home—whether it be the royal treasury or a pilferer’s stash. It is the others that trouble me.”
He rubs his temples, as though even thinking hurts. I begin moving about the room again, straightening things, dusting surfaces…the little, normal, everyday movements that I know, somehow, provide the backdrop of comfort that Abbot Whiting needs right now.
“You remember those visitors from Walsingham? They informed me that the shrine there, the shrine to the Virgin, which the king himself has visited, has been destroyed. The statue of the Virgin removed, the shrine itself despoiled, and the buildings looted. The same happened at Roche Abbey this summer.”
Finally, it sinks in, and I know exactly which of Glastonbury’s relics—one with no value in gold, but still of immeasurable worth—is troubling him so.
I stop dusting. My tongue, now loosened, does not have the sense to stop.
“If Glastonbury falls, what will become of King Arthur?”
Visit any or all of the following blogs for your chance to win!