Saturday, November 28, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

Our last November Elizabethan Heroine is Emilia Lanier (or Lanyer), poet and musician. She was born into the musical Bassano family, who served as entertainers at Court. Details of her early life are a bit hard to come by, as very little is known about her aside from church, Court, and legal records and entries of astrologer Simon Forman's infamous diary (she visited him for readings numerous times in 1597).

Emilia was baptized at the church of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate, on January 27, 1569, the daughter of Baptiste Bassano, a Venice-born musician to Queen Elizabeth, and Margaret Johnson, who was possibly the aunt of Court composer Robert Johnson. She also had a sister, Angela, and two brothers who died before reaching adulthood. Her father died when she was 7, leaving Emilia a dowry of 100 pounds.

Forman's records indicate that she then went to live with Susan Bertie, Countess of Kent, perhaps to be fostered by her though the reason is unknown. In this household she was given a fine education, including Latin. Emilia then went to live in the household of Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland, and her daughter Lady Anne Clifford. Her mother died when she was 18, and not long after Emilia became the mistress of the Queen's cousin Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon.

At this time Lord Hunsdon was the Queen's Lord Chamberlain and a well-known patron of the arts and the theater (he was a supporter of Shakespeare's Lord Chamberlain's Men). He was also 45 years older than Emilia, but she didn't seem to mind. Forman wrote "(She) hath bin married four years. The old Lord Chamberlaun kept her longue. She was maintained in great pomp...she hath 40 a year and was welthy to him that married her in monie and Jewells." In 1592, when she was 23, she became pregnant and was paid off by Hunsdon with a large sum of money. She then married her cousin Alfonso Lanier, another Queen's musician, on October 18, 1592 at St. Botolph's, Aldgate. But it seems this marriage was unhappy, though they were married until his death in 1613. She gave birth to her son Henry in 1593, and a daughter, Odillya, in 1598, who died at 10 months old. Her son married a woman named Joyce Mansfield in 1623 and had 2 children of his own, Mary and Henry. (Court records indicate Emilia was looking after these children when her son died in 1633).

In 1611 she published her volume of poetry, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum when she was 42. She was one of the first women in England to declare herself a poet, and her readers considered her work quite radical in subject and unusual stylistically. This book centers on the title poem, a work of over 200 stanzas which tells the story of Christ's passion satirically and from the viewpoint of the women around Him. The main poem is prefaced by 10 shorter works dedicated to aristocratic women, beginning with the Queen. After the central poem is "Dedication of Cookham," dedicated to the Clifford women. It's one of the earliest "feminist" works.

After her husband's death, she supported herself by running a school, but little else is known of her life between 1619 and 1635. She had rent disputes with her landlord, and sued her husband's brother for money owed her from his estate (the courts ruled in her favor, but he would not pay her immediately, so she brought suit again--twice). She died at the age of 76 and was buried at Clerkenwell.

One enduring legend of Emilia Lanier is that she could have been Shakespeare's "Dark Lady," which was first proposed by A.L. Rowse. This can never be known for certain, of course, but it's as plausible a theory as any other!

Some good sources are:
David Lasocki and Roger Prior, The Bassanos: Venetian Musicans and Instrument Workers in England 1531-1665
The Diary of Simon Forman (hilariously bawdy reading!)
The Poems of Emilia Lanyer
Stephanie Hopkins Hughes, "New Light on the Dark Lady" (Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, September 22, 2000)
Susanne Woods, Lanyer: A Renaissance Woman Poet
Martin Green, "Emilia Lanier IS The Dark Lady" (English Studies, Vol. 87 No. 5, October 2006)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Portrait Friday

An anonymous Elizabethan lady by William Segar, ca. 1595

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Things I Love Thursday

What I love this Thursday--Thanksgiving, of course! I think about my grandmothers a lot on this holiday--they loved to cook for the holiday. I am not even a fraction of the chef they were (I wouldn't even know how to begin cooking a turkey!). But I make a great cranberry martini...

2 ounces vodka (or gin)
1/2 ounce vermouth
1/2 ounce cranberry liquer or cranberry juice
Fresh or frozen cranberries for garnish

Pour the first 3 ingredients into a cocktail shaker
with a couple ice cubes--shake well and strain into a chilled
martini glass. Then give thanks!

I'm so thankful for all the great friends I've made through books and writing! What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Winter Queen Giveaway!

The fabulous Elizabeth Kerri Mahon at Scandalous Women is giving away a copy of The Winter Queen! Go and leave a comment before November 29th for a chance to win...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Dream Houses

If I had a few million dollars just lying around, I would totally buy this place (Henry VIII's "love nest," LOL!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Happenings (And A Contest!)

I'm over at the Riskies today, celebrating the birthday of a childhood favorite, Frances Hodgson Burnett! Did you love The Secret Garden, too?

And I also have a holiday contest going on! Visit my Laurel McKee site before December 16 and enter for a chance to win an ARC of Countess of Scandal (out from Grand Central Publishing in February 2010!)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Another exhibit!

Costumes from Bright Star are on display at Keat's House Museum in London! If you go see them, let me know what they're like...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

We continue our November Of Elizabethan Women this week with Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke! Mary was one of the first English women to make a reputation for herself in literary works and patronage, and was considered second only to the Queen as a patron and intellectual of the period.

Mary Sidney was born October 27, 1561 at Ticknall Place in Worcestershire, the sister of the famous Sir Philip Sidney, to whom she was devoted (he relied on her help when composing "Arcadia"). She, along with her siblings, was highly educated according to the fashion of the time (she even had a female Italian teacher!) in the Reformed humanist tradition (much like her kinswoman, Lady Jane Grey). She was skilled in poetry, music, French, the ancient classics, rhetoric, needlework, and even practical medicine. All this served her well when she married Henry Herbert, the second Earl of Pembroke, in 1577 and turned their grand house at Wilton into a "paradise for poets," the so-called "Wilton Circle" which included Edmund Spenser, Michael Drayton, Sir John Davies, and Samuel Daniel. She was famous throughout England for her scholarship, her warm hostess skills, and her wit. She even invested in the explorations of men like Frobisher, in which her son William Herbert followed.

After her brother's death, she took on the task of completing and editing his "Arcadia," which was published under the title The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, one of the most widely red books of the time. She also finished his translation of the Psalms, which came out as "The Sidneian Psalms," and translated Petrarch's Triumph of Death, along with setting up a chemistry lab at Wilton.

When her husband died in 1600, she took on the management of Wilton for her son William, who followed her example as a literary patron (most famously to Shakespeare). James I visited them there in 1603 and witnessed the premier of Shakespeare's As You Like It. After this blow-out party, she moved to London and took up residence at Crosby Hall (which still stands in Chelsea) and maybe secretly married her doctor, Sir Matthew Lister. She sometimes traveled to Spa to "take the waters" and socialize, and hired Italian architects to build a new country mansion in Bedfordshire, Houghton Hall (now in ruins).

She died of smallpox in London in 1621, and was given in a grand funeral at St. Paul's Cathedral, after which she was buried with her husband at Salisbury Cathedral.

You can read some of her works here. A few good sources on her life are:
The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (2 volumes, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998. One of the most expensive books I had to buy in college, but totally worth it, LOL!)
Margaret P. Hannay, Philip's Phoenix: Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke (1990)
Gary Waller, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke: A Critical Study of Her Writings and Literary Milieu (University of Salzburg Press, 1979)

Next week we'll wrap up Elizabethan Month with a look at Emilia Lanier!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things I Love Thursday

I know I said Things I Love Thursday wouldn't become just a blog about clothes and food, but--well, this time of year I just can't help it! I love pumpkin cheesecake (like this one from Paula Deen)...


  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick melted salted butter


  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For crust:

In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For filling:

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.
Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.
There are also pumpkin martinis, though I have not yet tried this one...
  • 1/2 oz Sylk Cream Liqueur
  • 2 oz vanilla vodka
  • 1/2 oz pumpkin liqueur or pumpkin spice syrup
  • 1 tsp whipped cream
  • cinnamon stick for garnish


  1. Pour the Sylk Liqueur and vodka into a shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Add the pumpkin liqueur or syrup.
  4. Shake again.
  5. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  6. Top with a teaspoon of whipped cream.
  7. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

We continue our Month of Elizabethan Heroines with Lettice Knollys's daughter Penelope Rich! (I would love to write a historical novel about her someday...)

Penelope Devereux was born in 1562, the eldest daughter of Walter Devereux, Viscount Hereford and later Earl of Essex, and Lettice (granddaughter of Mary Boleyn, so all these troublesome women were cousins to the Queen!). When Penelope was 14 she met Sir Philip Sidney, who was struck by her vibrant beauty. Her father died in 1576 on an ill-fated colonizing voyage to Ireland, and on his deathbed expressed the wish that Sidney and Penelope might one day marry. But Penelope and her siblings were entrusted to the guardianship of the Earl of Huntingdon, who arranged for her to marry Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich, in 1581. (Her mother had married Robert Dudley in 1578 and was thus in disgrace!). Penelope is said to have protested the match with Rich--he was rather uncouth, while she was a cultured, intelligent, and very popular lady, a gifted singer and musician, fluent in 4 languages, etc. However, they did manage to have 7 children together before going their own separate ways.

Her connection to Sidney wasn't ended by the marriage. She is thought to have been the inspiration for his sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella (there are many puns on her name, and allusions people in the "in crowd" would have understood). Sidney was killed at the Battle of Zutphen in 1586, and became a great English hero of the age. Penelope's brother, the Earl of Essex, then married Sidney's widow Frances (daughter of spymaster Francis Walsingham), and Penelope was much at Court during the time of her brother's time as Queen's favorite. (Poet Richard Barnfield dedicated his book The Affectionate Shepherd to her in 1594, as well as sonnets addressed to her by John Davies and Henry Constable. Hilliard painted her portrait twice; Charles Tessier dedicated his book of part-songs in French and Italian to her, and John Dowland composed "My Lady Rich's Galliard.")

In 1595, she met Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy, and fell passionately in love with him. After her brother's execution for treason in 1601 (a plot she may have taken part in), Lord Rich tossed her out, along with her 4 children with Blount. Penelope didn't seem to much care; she set up housekeeping with her beloved and they lived together publicly. One the accession of James I, Blount was created Earl of Devonshire and Penelope was among the ladies who escorted Queen Anne into London and served as Lady of the Bedchamber. She portrayed the nymph Ocyte in Ben Jonson's Masque of Blackness at Court on Twelfth Night in 1605.

That same year, Rich sued for divorce, which was granted. The terms of the divorce forbade Penelope to remarry, but she married Blount anyway, in a private ceremony at their home at Wanstead House in London (the officiant was William Laud, later Archbishop of Canterbury). The couple was then banished from Court, but continued to live together as husband and wife with their children until Blount's death a few months later. He died in April 1606, and Penelope died in July 1607.

Some sources I like on Penelope's fascinating life are:
Sylvia Freedman, Poor Penelope
Sally Varlow, The Lady Penelope
Katherine Duncan-Jones, "Sidney, Stella, and Lady Rich," in Sir Philip Sidney: 1586 and the Creation of a Legend

I also like Emily Van Ever's CD, My Lady Rich, with period music inspired by Penelope!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Portrait Friday

If you're in the Albuquerque area, I'll be at a 6-author booksigning tomorrow (the 14th) at a Borders Books! Come and say hi...

This week's portrait is last week's husband, the Earl of Southampton (patron of Shakespeare and Court troublemaker)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Exhibit Mania

If I was in the NYC area, I would totally be at these exhibits this week!

Watteau, Music, and Theater
at the Met

And A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy at the Morgan Library (though since this is on until March, I might make it there to see it!) (Here is the NY Times review of the exhibit)

If you go to either of these, let me know how they are...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Great Day For Biking

It was a gorgeous weekend, so Victoria and I spent Sunday at my brother's cyclocross race!

(For a fun look at the history of the bicycle, you can go here to the Bicycle Museum! For an explanation of cyclocross, look here)

I really, really want this Hello Kitty bike, but I'm pretty sure my brother wouldn't let me ride with him then!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Hottie Monday

Another Miscellaneous Hottie Monday. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

To celebrate the release of my Elizabethan-set book The Winter Queen this month, I've decided to spend November looking at some fascinating Tudor-era women! First up--Lettice Knollys, cousin of Elizabeth I, wife of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and mother of the Earl of Essex and Penelope Rich (and she outlived them all).

Lettice was born ca. November 1543 to Sir Francis Knollys and his wife Catherine Carey at their estate at Rotherfield Grays in Oxfordshire. (Catherine was the daughter of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne, and thus Lettice was Elizabeth's first cousin once removed on the maternal side). Sir Francis was a Puritan in his convictions, and lived in Switzerland with his family during the reign of Queen Mary, only returning to England when Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558. Catherine was then made a senior Lady of the Bedchamber, Sir Francis a vice-chamberlain of the Household, and Lettice a Maid of the Privy Chamber. She was one of the prettiest, wittiest, and most sought-after ladies at Court.

She married Walter Devereux, Viscount Hereford (later Earl of Essex), in 1560, and the couple went to live at the estate of Chartley in Staffordshire, where their first 2 children were born, daughters Penelope and Dorothy (who would resemble their mother in their beauty and willfulness, as well as their penchant for scandal!). Lettice sometimes returned to Court, and it was on one of these trips she started a flirtation with Robert Dudley, the Queen's favorite. When Elizabeth found out, Lettice was sent back to Staffordshire, where she gave birth to her first son Robert Walter (1569), and his brother Francis (1572). Francis died in infancy, and soon after in 1573 the earl joined the first Ulster Project, a plantation of Englishmen in Ireland. While he was gone, Lettice got involved with Dudley again amid great scandal. The earl died in Ireland of dysentery in September of 1576, and 2 years later Lettice married Dudley in a tiny, secret ceremony at Wanstead, their home near London. When the Queen learned of this, the results were predictable--Lettice was banished permanently from Court, and the Queen publicly called her a "she-wolf" and her husband a traitor and a cuckold. Their only child, Robert, Baron Denbigh, was born in 1581. Though they doted on their "Noble Imp" he died in 1584.

Lettice didn't let banishment from Court crimp her style. She held a glittering social life at Wanstead and a house in London, and was much sought-after. She was also very close to her grown children. Dudley died soon after the defeat of the Armada in 1588, and 10 months later Lettice married Sir Christopher Blount, who was 12 years her junior (though she was still called the Dowager Countess of Leicester). He got involved with his stepson Essex's ill-considered rebellion in 1601 and both of them were executed. Lettice, however, went on, indominitable. She lived at her fine estate of Drayton Bassett, raising her grandchildren and doing good deeds for the poor of the neighborhood. James I restored the title Earl of Essex to her grandson in 1603.

Lettice lived to be 91 years old, dying on Christmas Day 1634, and was buried next to Dudley in the Beauchamp Chapel of the Church of St. Mary in Warwick, near their little son. She's said to be an ancestor of many modern famous people, such as Darwin, Churchill, the Queen Mother, and Princess Diana.

I have a very battered copy of Judith Saxton's Cousin to the Queen: The Story of Lettice Knollys (1972) which I picked up at a library booksale once. There's also a great deal of information about her in bios of her daughter Penelope (who we will look at next week!), and in Derek Wilson's Sweet Robin: A Biography of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester. And I love the old Victoria Holt novel My Enemy the Queen!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Portrait Friday

All this month, to celebrate the release of my Elizabethan-set book The Winter Queen, we'll look at Tudor-era portraits! This week--Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Things I Love Thursday

What I love today--terrible high school musicals on YouTube! I guess it takes me back to my own terrible high school theater days. I waste far too much time on YouTube, I know, but sometimes it's hard to resist.

Like this gem from Les Mis....

And I'll be reading from my new book The Winter Queen on Blog Talk radio at noon CST today! Call in and listen!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What I'm Reading

Because I love stories of intrepid Victorian lady travelers!

(And I'm over at Risky Regencies talking about characters taking over my life!)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Hottie Monday Shakespeare Edition

I wasn't sure what to do for Hottie Monday this week, but I've been going through an Elizabethan phase lately with the release of my new book The Winter Queen, so I re-watched one of my favorite movies while I recovered from Halloween Sugar Sickness yesterday--Shakespeare in Love. (I did try to watch the new show Flash Forward, but after its bang-up pilot it went downhill fast! Plus I couldn't get rid of the feeling that Joseph Fiennes was a time-traveling Shakespeare disguised as an FBI agent...)

(BTW, who are some hotties you'd like to see on future Mondays?? I'm setting up a schedule for the next coupld or months!)

Happy first Monday of November!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Halloween was fabulous! Victoria the Turtle and Abigail the French Maid enjoyed it very much. :) Now we have to recover from the sugar shock...