Today I have an extra FABULOUS interview with Andrea Zuvich, the Seventeenth Century Lady and author of His Last Mistress: The story of the Duke of Monmouth and Lady Henrietta Wentworth. She’s also one of the founders and present guide of the Garden Tours at Kensington Palace in England, which she discusses as well! We talk about the Stuarts in history including William and Mary, the allure of mistresses, and the upcoming Stuart Vampire novel she’s written. It’s jam-packed of historical goodness and so I invite you in to stay awhile.
Hi Andrea! So happy to have you stop by today so we can do an interview on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I am sure the gardens at Kensington Palace are beautiful this time of year and you’ve been busy giving tours, how have you found the time to fit in publicizing your novella as well?
Andrea: Hello, Erin, thanks for having me! Yes, the gardens are looking incredibly beautiful now – we’ve had a real summer this year, plus rain, so the grass is green and the flowers are vibrant and gorgeous. His Last Mistress is my first book, and so that why I decided to go on a virtual tour because I think historical fiction readers might be interested in reading about the latter part of the Duke of Monmouth’s life.
Erin: Ah, what an amazing job! And I’m excited to hear about your writing so let’s find a lovely garden, maybe a halfway point, and have a lovely stroll while we chat. Let’s get started!
Q: I read that as you were working on another novel, you were asked by your publisher to pen your novella, His Last Mistress, which is the story of the Duke of Monmouth and Lady Henrietta Wentworth. Why were these real-life characters so important? What was the book about in your own words?
A: Yes, I was working on a biographical fiction of William and Mary when I was contracted by Endeavour Press in London to write a novella. I had a few ideas, and from those, they chose the story of Duke of Monmouth and Lady Henrietta Wentworth. Monmouth was the son of King Charles II and was very popular throughout England because a) he was a really great soldier b) he was a Protestant and c) people thought (or at least hoped) that he might be Charles’s legitimate son. He is a very important figure in the late 17th-century because he led the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion of 1685.
Henrietta was pretty much an unknown figure, and lesser-known figures are very appealing to me. I want people to know about them! As the story begins, Monmouth is already married, and keeps a mistress. During a masque (a Stuart court entertainment/play) he meets Henrietta Wentworth and falls for her – and to a libertine, love is a very new experience. She becomes, literally, his last mistress and the story is about their love affair – which is horrifically shattered by the events surrounding the Rebellion. It is a tragic romance in the vein of Tristan & Isolde and Romeo & Juliet – even my husband cried when he finished it!
Erin Comments: Yes, I love when people from history are remembered through books. And their love affair, so very beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time!
Q: Does this novella fit into your work in progress, a novel of William III and Mary II (King and Queen of England in the 1600s)? If so, why?
A: Yes, William and Mary’s story was concurrent with Monmouth’s and I had originally incorporated a good deal of Monmouth’s story in William & Mary. In His Last Mistress, readers are introduced to several characters who will also appear in more detail in William & Mary, which covers the years 1677-1702, and His Last Mistress covers 1675-1686, and Monmouth and Henrietta stayed in the Dutch Republic at the court of William & Mary from around 1684-85, so both works definitely fit in with each other.
Q: I know you’ve written an article about the “allure” of royal mistresses in regards to readers and writers being drawn to their stories. Feel free to link that here, but in shorter answer format, why do you feel they carried such great weight with their lovers? As fairly religious monarchs had mistresses, how was this acceptable?
A: I wrote an article entitled “The Allure of the Royal Mistress” for Endeavour Press which was published on The Huffington Post. In the article, I mention that many people over the years have been fascinated by royal adultery and scandal. Mistresses were pretty much accepted as par for the course, really. Throughout history, royal marriages in particular were formed to achieve greater power, money, land, or peace between warring nations. As a result, many of the alliances were not loving unions, and so married persons would seek both romantic love and sexual gratification with partners outside their marriage. That being said, some – as perhaps was the case with Charles II and Catherine of Braganza – loved their spouse but sought sexual release with others. Adultery is usually very painful for the betrayed spouse, but we have to remember the historical context of these liaisons.
Q: The Duke of Monmouth was a Stuart, as he was the offspring of Charles II and a mistress. He was spoiled as a boy by his father, as he was supposedly handsome and charismatic. However, Henrietta was said to have become the love of his life. When he declared himself King after his father’s death (when actually his uncle became King) he eventually was taken to the Tower and beheaded in the most brutal and remembered beheading in history.
James, Duke of Monmouth, photo provided by Andrea Zuvich
Explain A) imagine how his life would have been changed had his mother not been a mistress. Would he have made a good King? Why or why not? B) How do you think his death impacted Henrietta and what became of her?
A: If his mother, Lucy Walter, had in fact been Charles II’s wife, everything would have been different for Monmouth. He would have been Prince of Wales and accepted by all – without question – as Charles’s heir. The throne could only pass to a legitimate offspring, and Charles was adamant that the only wife he’d ever had was Catherine of Braganza, who unfortunately had great trouble trying to have children. This meant that the throne had to pass to the next legitimate Stuart prince, who was his Catholic brother, James, Duke of York. Monmouth’s infamous execution was undoubtedly the worst kind of death he could have had, and his father would have been utterly distraught and appalled that his beloved son had such an end. Monmouth was very malleable, and whether he would have been a good king would rest, I believe, upon those in close proximity to him. Idiotic fops often surrounded him, and he often engaged in some frankly stupid behavior; but there were times when he showed he was no fool – again depending on who were his companions. There were glimmers in his character that made it seem possible for him to have been a good king.
Henrietta was said to have died from a broken heart, some nasty people said it was because of her cosmetics (which contained poisonous substances), but I think she was severely depressed after Monmouth’s death, from which she couldn’t recover. The horrific manner of his death no doubt would have preyed upon her mind. She died less than a year after him, probably from consumption. They had a son together, according to some documents, and I include this in the story.
Erin Comments: You detail the final endings of both their lives so dramatically in your book. It was so emotional. It is amazing how legalities and circumstances can destroy people’s lives, and in some regards, end their lives in the worst way.
Henrietta Wentworth, photo provided by Andrea Zuvich
Q: Since you are a freelance researcher, and an avid one, did you find it hard to contain this story to a standard novella size? Why or why not?
A: It was difficult to restrict the story to this size. I wanted to add many more details and events, but I was contracted by my publisher to write a novella, and had to adhere to the terms of the contract.
Q: Have you thought about writing another novel based on Monmouth’s life?
A: Based on the feedback I’ve received about the novella, it’s clear that people want more Monmouth! As a result, I have decided to write a novel about Monmouth’s life up until he meets Henrietta, and then people can finish with His Last Mistress. He had such a colourful, dramatic life, that there is much to include. He was a fascinating historical figure – heroic, dashing, handsome, rakish, but emotionally volatile, violent, unlearned. That project will have to come a bit later, as I have four other books to write first! (The Stuart Vampire, Untitled Restoration actors novel, Book One of Rupert of the Rhine Adventures, and a non-fiction about the Stuarts).
Q: How much research have you done on your upcoming novel about William and Mary? Do you feel there is a good place in the book market for a book on these historical monarchs? Why?
A: A lot of research was done! William & Mary has been such a journey. I started researching intensively in late 2010 and I’ve researched in The Netherlands, Scotland, and throughout England in order to make sure I do the best I can.
Royal stories have always interested many people, and I think the topic became even more popular following the Royal Wedding in 2011, when everyone began to talk about Catherine being a commoner and how it’s happened before: Mary’s mother, Anne Hyde, was a commoner when she married James, Duke of York, who later became King James II. There is this great painting of Anne Hyde in the Queen’s Gallery at Kensington Palace, and I love the intelligent look she gives to the viewer.
As for whether the market is good for William & Mary, we’ll have to see, but I’m writing these stories because I love them, and think they’re worth sharing. Also, my fans(?) have been patiently waiting for three years! With any luck, maybe more people will start to read historical fiction and history books about the 17th-Century!
Erin Comments: I think there must be more interest going to emerge about this time period. Once they are done reading about the Tudors, I’d think they’d like to continue down the line of British Monarchy and the people that surround them. Plus, though for so long New World literature hasn’t been trending, I think that with the onset of learning more about America, where we came from, and who ruled us first and then how we fought to get our freedom, it seems that at least in America, this will become a novel of choice very soon too.
Q: How much information is available about William and Mary? I know she was the actual monarch from succession, so what was their actual relationship like that she allowed him make decisions over her? Or did he show his respect for her enough, and she showed her ability to rule as well, that we remember them as a duo? Please elaborate.
A: There is a good deal of information about their lives and reign. I have had a great deal of help from my contacts in The Netherlands, who are really excited about the novel, because William and Mary are quite large historical figures there, perhaps more so than here in England. Mary only accepted the throne on the condition that her husband, William, was made king. Mary was definitely a woman of her time (and I won’t hear anyone bash her for this!) and she intensely believed that it was unnatural for a wife to be dominant over the husband. That being said, they made an excellent team. Whilst William was off fighting to secure their thrones, Mary very capably managed affairs here in England. I find it rather tragic how Mary II was cut down in her prime, because she could have been another Elizabeth, and contemporaries said as much about her. What I love about her is that, though she was naturally intelligent, she had this endearing humility and self-doubt, which I think a lot of modern politicians could benefit from having! William depended on her, loved her, and when she died, it was such a blow to him that people were certain that he would follow her shortly to the grave.
Q: What makes them an interesting couple? What are they best known for?
A: I think the relationship between William and Mary was quite an interesting one, for rarely did two people flung together into a political marriage get on as well as they. She was a celebrated beauty and he was this popular, if not militarily successful, Prince of Orange. England and the Dutch Republic had gone through quite a number of hostilities, the Anglo-Dutch wars in particular, and a new marriage between England and Holland seemed a good way for peace.
When Mary met her first cousin William, who was not considered handsome, and then told she was to marry him, she wept for two days! Though they had a bad start, they soon fell in love; though she was much more demonstrative in her affections than he.
A great many things happened during their reign. We have the Bill of Rights of 1689, the College of William and Mary in the USA was founded in 1693, and the Bank of England was founded in 1694. The list goes on and on, but there was a darker side to their reign: the Glencoe Massacre (1692), the Salem Witch Trials (1692/93), and even the long troubles in Northern Ireland stems from their reign (which added to already existing tensions created under Cromwell, and before that, the Tudor Plantations).
Q: When should we expect your first novel to be published? Will it be published in both the UK and US?
A: William & Mary is currently making the rounds at several agencies, and one publisher has shown interest, but I’m still waiting to get all replies first. I had hoped it would be published for this Christmas, but that’s not looking likely at this point, but yes, when it does, it should be available in Europe and the USA. I’m really excited, and after over three years, it’s certainly my baby!
Erin Comments: I can’t wait to read it, very interested!
Q: Moving on, you are a fan of the baroque! What about it do you find so enchanting?
A: I love everything Baroque! The music, the art and the architecture – the works! Baroque music was/is so glorious, for it is capable of both intense emotion, but also lively fun. I listen to Baroque everytime I research and write – it’s the perfect accompaniment to my field of study. The French composer, Marin Marais, wrote one piece in particular, La Rêveuse – 4ème livre de Pièces de viole, which profoundly moves me, as does Italian Gregorio Allegri’s (1582-1652) Miserere.
Q: I know you do Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace and you were a founding coordinator of them. What a lovely idea, and I hope to take one someday! One of my favorite memories as a child for me was knocking on the Queen’s summer home door. My mom still laughs at that too. What are people most interested in as they come to view the history and modern workings for themselves? What is your favorite part of being involved?
Photo of Kensington Gardens in England, provided by Andrea Zuvich
A: That sounds like a lovely memory! It’s funny to think that when we first started the Garden History Tours, most people were keen to know about Diana, but in the past two years, it’s all focused upon William and Catherine. Very few people in the beginning seemed to know about the Stuarts, but I’ve noticed that more and more people ask me Stuart-related questions, and of course, that always makes me happy!
I love showing examples of what the gardens used to look like, first after William and Mary incorporated the popular formal, ornate parterres, and then I show them how things changed – sometimes drastically – from one monarch to the next. Kensington Palace and gardens is really a series of changes throughout history.
My favourite part of being involved is the thought that I am in the same building that some of my favourite historical figures lived. I felt the same way when I visited Het Loo Palace in The Netherlands – it’s such a special feeling.
Photo of Kensington Gardens in England, provided by Andrea Zuvich
Erin Comments: It’s nice to be able to notice trends and why they occur. Wonderful that more people seem interested as well!! I would love to hear how each various monarch has put their own touch on the gardens.
Q: What are some of you own favorite books and authors? What books would you recommend for fiction readers who enjoy the baroque era? Feel free to also give ideas for other historical books as well.
A: Hands down, my favourite modern writers are A.S. Byatt and Sebastian Faulks. If I had as much talent as those two have in their pinky fingers, I’ll think I’ve achieved something. Other favourites are long-since dead: William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Giovanni Bocaccio, Daniel Defoe, Walter Scott. For readers who enjoy the Restoration, I think they should start off with the meticulously researched Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor, Restoration by Rose Tremain, and then work their way to modern historical fiction set in the 17th-century by my friends and acquaintances Anita Seymour, Deborah Swift, and Alison Stuart.
Q: Do you have any other hobbies or passionate pursuits? If so, tell us about them and what you enjoy.
A: Yes, I’m afraid I’m one of those people who are never bored –there’s too much to learn and do to be bored! My trouble is having the time to do them all! I have always loved to sing, and I’m currently working on ideas for an album of folk songs from the 17th-century. I play the flute, the piano, and I can play a little Spanish guitar and Russian balalaika. I also enjoy painting a great deal, but I haven’t had time to do much painting in the past two years. I also enjoy cooking, but I’m pretty bad at cleaning the kitchen afterwards! :p
Erin Comments: I know what you mean about being interested in EVERYTHING. How could life ever being boring! There is so much art, music, architecture, nature, and books to enjoy. I like to cook for my family, but I hate the clean-up too and oh, does Pinterest and my books call my name….(at least until I can get out to do the other in person).
Q: If you could write about anything historical outside of this period in England, what other time periods or places would you be interested in?
A: I love the Renaissance with a lesser passion than I love the Seventeenth Century, but it’s still a passion! (I am currently writing a few chapters in The Stuart Vampire set in the Renaissance, so I get the best of both worlds!). I was quite keen on the Mediaeval period as well when I was about twelve.
Q: Who are some of your favorite women in history? Why?
A: I admire Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, who was a really talented female French Baroque composer, and I’m really pleased that in recent years there has been a renewed interest in her work. I already said I love Mary II, but I also admire the painter Artemisia Gentileschi. In college, I wrote a long research paper about the fascinating Veronica Franco, a Venetian courtesan renowned for her poetry skills and intelligence. Anne of Austria was pretty cool, too.
Q: I know you are also working on a book that darts to the historical paranormal, which surrounds vampires in the Stuart family. Can you talk about this with us? Tell us why you decided to write a paranormal and how you think it is going for you? When can we expect it?
A: Since there is a rather gruesome scene in His Last Mistress, I think that people won’t be surprised that The Stuart Vampire is gory, with both paranormal and normal horror elements, as there are vampires, but also includes the horrors of 17th-century witch trials, the Great Plague of London, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and it darts in and out of various time periods – from 17th-century to Renaissance to Victorian, etc.
I decided to write a paranormal story probably because my husband is always putting on horror films (which I was never allowed to watch when I was living with my mom) and I think they’ve warped my brain! I quite like scary films now! I have chosen as my undead protagonist, Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, who died from smallpox in 1660 (or so they would have you believe!). It’s coming along quite well, mainly because I haven’t had to research much at all – it’s mostly from the dark side of my imagination! I’m trying to have this one ready in time to scare people this Halloween, 2013. I hope people enjoy it!
Erin Comments: Well, I happen to love horror! I love when I find other ladies who love history and horror both, thought it isn’t often enough. I am so excited to read your Vampire book. I was also never allowed to watch scary movies or read scary books as a child and now I am grabbing it all up. If you follow my blog, I spend some of my time reviewing horror. There is alot of horror in history too, so it really all fits together! If you put your book out for Halloween, please let me know and I’d be happy to feature it.
Q: What has been the best part for you on your writing journey so far? Any challenges? What positives keep you going?
A: The absolute best part has been getting messages from people who love the Stuarts and many of them have said they are very pleased that I’m drawing more attention to these lesser-known historical figures. Also, historians and history lovers alike seem to enjoy it, and I’m pleased that all my research has been commended.
The challenges have been that some people have obtained my book through free eBook promotions and then realize it’s not a happy ending, and I’ve had some quite colourful emails from those in the romance community who thought I had made the story up. It’s a biographical fiction with a love story, not a romance with a happy ending.
Another challenge is that I’ve noticed how easy it is for people to dismiss someone’s work on Goodreads or Amazon, and they seem to not understand the time, work, and dedication that the writer has gone through to write and publish a work. It’s funny, because the people who have bought it have been more pleased than those who got it when it was number 1 on Amazon’s free promotion. People have been doing more searches on the Monmouth Rebellion, the Duke of Monmouth, and Henrietta Wentworth – so reading this book has piqued their curiosity about the subject. What keeps me going is that all of them, including those who felt it wasn’t right for them – go away having learned about a piece of British history – and that was the whole point.
Erin Comments: That is so very true. I try to find positives in all books and I don’t like to critique people too harshly because as a writer myself I do realize that someone spent alot of time creating their work. I am harsher on grammar and editing most, as I believe people should pay professionals for that, but the story that is told from the heart deserves a proper reading and reporting. I agree with you about your book, and your future books, as I am sure that more and more people will learn about these very crucial people in our history.
Q: Where can readers and fellow writers contact you?
A: I’m always happy to communicate with anyone who wants to contact me. I’m on Twitter (where I do “On This Day I’the #17thCentury” daily) @AndreaZuvich and Facebook: The Seventeenth Century Lady, and of course, there is the main website, www.17thcenturylady.com where there are loads of articles about the 17th Century, Book recommendations, and Films Set in the 17th Century!
Q: How might anyone purchase your novella, His Last Mistress?
A: His Last Mistress is available both in paperback and eBook on most Amazon sites around the world. The paperback version, however, includes a sneak peak of William & Mary! I am also in the process of getting the book stocked at bookstores throughout the UK.
Erin: Thank you, Andrea, for talking with me today. It’s been very interesting to learn about this time period and its players. I wish you much success and look forward to your upcoming books!
Andrea: Thank you so much, Erin! I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you today, and I hope I can take you on a Garden History Tour someday. It’s been a pleasure!
Erin: I sure do hope to one day soon have you give me a tour and take some fabulous photos!
Publication Date: May 20, 2013
Set in the tumultuous late 17th Century, His Last Mistress tells the true story of the final years of James Scott, the handsome Duke of Monmouth, and his lover Lady Henrietta Wentworth.
As the illegitimate eldest son of King Charles II, the Duke is a spoiled, lecherous man with both a wife and a mistress. However, this rakish libertine is soon captivated by the innocence of young Lady Henrietta Wentworth, who has been raised to covet her virtue. She is determined to spurn his advances, yet she cannot deny the chemistry between them. Will she succumb? At the same time, the Duke begins to harbour risky political ambitions that may threaten not only his life but also that of those around him.
His Last Mistress is a passionate, sometimes explicit, carefully researched and ultimately moving story of love and loss, set against a backdrop of dangerous political unrest, brutal religious tensions, and the looming question of who will be the next King.
Author Andrea Zuvich, Biography~
Born in Philadelphia in 1985 to Chilean-Croatian parents, Andrea Zuvich is a historian specialising in the Late Stuarts of the Seventeenth Century and is the creator and writer of the history website, The Seventeenth Century Lady.
Andrea studied History and Anthropology at both the University of Central Florida and Oxford University, and has been independently researching the 1600s since 2008. Andrea is a leader on and one of the original developers of The Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace, Historic Royal Palaces, and lives with her English husband in Lancashire, England.
Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/hislastmistresstour/
Twitter Hashtag: #HisLastMistressTour