Elizabeth Fremantle, author of "Queen's Gambit (available in June) answers 10 questions about her favorite time period in history, her favorite figures from history, and the age old question of coffee or tea.
1. If you could go back in time and be any figure from history, who would it be?
When I try and imagine going back in time, being a pragmatist, I tend to get caught up in the practicalities, like not being able to survive the disease and discomfort – the plague, the mud, the brutality, the misogyny. But all that aside, I know I wouldn’t like to be a woman too close to the throne but the advantages of being well born, and consequently educated, have an allure. I think I’d like to be Penelope Devereaux, the daughter of Lettice Knollys. She was Queen Elizabeth’s cousin and the beauty who inspired Philip Sidney’s sonnet cycle "Astrophil and Stella". Penelope led a scandalous life, living openly ‘in sin’ with her lover Lord Mountjoy and negotiated the political machinations of the court with aplomb. A truly interesting woman, who is one of the protagonists of the third novel in my Tudor trilogy.
2. What year in history would you have liked to live in?
The best I can do is pin it down to a decade: the 1590s. It was the period of great flourishing in literature, the age of Shakespeare, Donne, Marlowe to name but a few, and also saw the extraordinary discoveries of explorers like Raleigh and Drake were influencing English culture – a fascinating time indeed.
3. You're having a dinner party and you can invite 5 people from history, who would they be?
Assuming that I am Penelope Devereaux I’d invite, Katherine Parr, Philip Sidney, Coleridge, Mary Shelley, William Shakespeare and please can I have a sixth – Richard III just to see what he was really like.
4. What castle from the past or present would you like to live in?
I’ve always rather fancied Nonsuch which is strictly speaking a palace, so if it must be a castle then Sudeley or Chambord on the Loire.
5. Two fellow historical fiction authors you'd like to go on a history themed tour of the world with?
Alison Weir, without a doubt – her knowledge of the sixteenth century is astonishing and Madeline Miller, author of the wonderful "SONG OF ACHILLES" whose classical expertise would be most enlightening. Can I please also take Sarah Waters, as it would be a shame to leave out the nineteenth century.
6. Who was more dashing and interesting, King Henry VIII of England or King Louis XIV of France?
For me, Henry VIII, without a doubt. Though Louis XIV’s red stockings are most fetching.
7. Which of the six wives of King Henry VIII is your favorite?
Katherine Parr, for obvious reasons – she was the first Queen to publish an original work in English, survived a plot on her life by wits alone, trod the knife-edge of court politics and survived!
8. English monarchy or French monarchy?
Well, the English monarchy still exists.
9. What three novels could you read over and over?
"Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters; "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley; "Beware of Pity" by Stephan Zweig
10. Tea or coffee when writing?
Tea, extra-strong, with milk in a bucket-sized mug please.
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