Sunday, October 31, 2010

Abuse in the Tudor Court

In my works SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT and RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT (Kensington Books, May, 2011), I chose to illustrate quite a detailed account of the abuses suffered by the Duchess Elizabeth Howard and the more speculated abuse of her daughter Mary Howard at the hands of the third Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard. Why did I choose to do this? Because I like gory descriptions of another's pain? On the contrary. As a survivor of domestic violence myself, I chose to tell the story in a way that would perhaps at times shock the reader into awareness of the hopelessness of women not only in the 16th century, but the hopeFULness of women of today. In the time period of Duchess Elizabeth and young Mary, there was no help available. Men could do as they pleased as fathers and husbands, and they took full advantage of that, as the Duke of Norfolk's actions illustrates quite well.

In Barbara Harris' intriguing article "Marriage: 16th Century Style" and George Frederick Nott's "Works of Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, and of Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder"in two volumes, we see firsthand letters the Duchess composed making attempts at seeking help in vain from the Lord Privy Seal Thomas Cromwell, and even appeals to King Henry VIII himself. Ahead of her time, Duchess Elizabeth spoke out when no one else would and though it is unfortunate she was not heard, it speaks of a courage seldom seen in documented early modern history on the part of these amazing women. Sadly, we also see the reaction of her husband the Duke, not unlike reactions of many modern abusers--denial and threats should the abuse be exposed coupled with accusations of her "slander".

Though most would call the story of Duchess Elizabeth tragic, I feel she made a difference with her outspoken cries for help and assistance, showing not only women of her time that women COULD have a voice, but illustrating even more to contemporary women that WE have a voice now.

Seeking help is hard. I know. Women (and men) in abusive relationships feel trapped and live in terror of their abusers. They don't know where to turn. Often isolated and controlled, help seems no where in sight. But there is hope and help. Take that first step. Call a friend, a trusted family member, or clergy person. We have resources today that the poor Duchess and her daughter could only dream of. It is up to us to use them and become survivors, not victims, of our abusers. There can be healing. I am proof of that hope realized.

Attached find some helpful links for study and sharing that may help others reach out for the help I so encourage them finding at: ... National Domestic Violence Hotline ... The Women's Institute for Incorporation Therapy

We live in a time where we have a voice. Use it loud and use it proud!


  1. Thank you for sharing! You are incredible and wonderful and I am thankful for you in my life. Your story and the stories you give to us all will never be forgotten. Blessings!

  2. what a fantastic article. In my searches for family history, I have found a trend in the 19th century England to prosecute Men who assaulted their wives/lovers. Granted the cases were few, but at least the law took notice of the more outrageous assaults. God knows what shape those women were in for the courts to take action

  3. Thank you so much for your words, ladies; I greatly appreciate it. My mission is not only to entertain and educate when possible, but to reach others in situations as desperate as the one I was in and let them know there is life after abuse. Sometimes that is when the best of life begins! Cheers, all!

  4. Welcome to the blogging world! I'm really looking forward to your novel about Elizabeth Howard.

  5. I think it's an important thing to keep in mind that many people in an abusive relationship simply don't realise at the time that the relationship is abusive. That's why I like the cards that the Family Center is handing out that tell you that if your spouse keeps money from you, insults you, or prevents you seeing your friends, then that is as much an abusive relationship as one which involves violence.

  6. I look forward to your book and appreciate your strength and courage. The history of domestic violence is rarely told. You go girl!