QUEEN ELIZABETH I WAS ONE OF THE FIRST RULERS TO USE PORTRAITS of herself, grand and symbolic, as what we today call PR. Her and Cecil’s brilliance to use art this way was part of the inspiration for this book. She had not yet begun to use all of the symbolic Gloriana and Virgin Queen imagery she employed later, but the impact of her propaganda began at this time. The portraits of previous English rulers recorded how they looked and were displayed in the homes of royalty or nobility; Elizabeth Tudor meant for her portraits to speak of her virtues and power to a much broader audience.
The summer I was writing this book, which also happened to be the four hundredth anniversary of the queen’s death, I was able to revisit London and see a marvelous exhibition on her life at the Maritime Museum on the site of the long-gone Tudor Palace of Greenwich. The treasures on display included the queen’s original poem that begins this novel (“No crooked leg …”) in her own hand; her gift to Katherine Parr, the translation of
The Mirror of the Sinful Soul;
and many items about Dr. Dee.
The brilliant Dee was one of the wonders of the Elizabethan age and did sign secret notes to the queen with his 007 sobriquet. Some say that author Ian Fleming used that as partial inspiration for his character James Bond, who served in another Queen Elizabeth’s “secret service.”
Cuddington’s cruel fate under King Henry VIII is fact, although the Mooring family is my fiction. Mortlake and Cheam are charming towns yet today. Fabulously decorated Nonsuch Palace is no longer standing (the site was excavated in 1959), but the vast hunt park, now called Nonsuch Park, remains. Elizabeth regained the palace in 1591 from Lord Arundel’s heir, Lord Lumley, and spent several weeks there each year through much of her reign. The palace on the cover of this book is Nonsuch from the north gate, though the artistic grandeurs of the palace lie within.
When I began to research this book (the seventh in the Queen Elizabeth I Mystery Series), I found that between 1550 and 1650, mirror titles abounded in English books. In his book
The Mutable Glass,
Herbert Grabes calls the mirror “the central metaphor of a literary era, especially in Elizabethan England.” I could not pass up mirrors, or “glasses” as they were sometimes called then, as a hook for a book, especially when I found an old engraving from a 1488 manuscript in which a man holds a mirror up to the sun to start a fire.
The subplot about Gil Sharpe’s forbidden knowledge of the camera obscura is based on a recent fascinating and controversial book called
by artist David Hockney. It is also true that some of the Italian Renaissance craftsmen’s guilds took secrecy oaths which could be enforced by pain of death. And so I included an early “mafia hit man.”
Woman at the Mirror
Venus of Urbino
actually exist as described in this story. The painting of the queen on the cover of this book is from the title page of Christopher Saxon’s
Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales,
1579, though I like to imagine it is Gil Sharpe’s painting of his queen. Lavina Teerlinc was a real artist who painted miniatures at court, before the genius Nicholas Hilliard eclipsed her later in the queen’s reign.
The queen’s beloved companion Lady Katherine “Kat” Ashley did indeed die “greatly lamented” in 1565.
Katherine Constable was the first of Dr. John Dee’s three wives. Little is recorded of her but that she was the widow of a London grocer. She herself died in 1575, only ten years after this story, but Dee’s second wife lived barely a year before he married a third. Hm, do I scent a story there?
Copyright © 2005 by Karen Harper.
The Fatal Fashione
© 2005 by Karen Harper.
Cover painting of Nonsuch Palace © Syndics of Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Cover portrait of Queen Elizabeth I from
Atlas of the Countries of England and Wales
All rights reserved.
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First eBook Edition : January 2011
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2004056654
St. Martin’s Press hardcover edition / February 2005
St. Martin’s Paperbacks edition / February 2006