The second book in my Tudor-set series, KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS released on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012. In Keeper, Susanna Horenbout and her betrothed, John Parker, have to find the famous jewel known as the Mirror of Naples before anyone else, or England might just go to war with France. When I was researching the first book in the series, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, I stumbled across mention of the Mirror of Naples, and was so intrigued by it I decided it just had to be part of KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS.
The jewel is described as being as large as a full-sized finger with a large pear-shaped pearl hanging from it. It was worth the equivalent of £4,500,000.
Henry VIII’s sister Mary was given the jewel as part of the French Crown Jewels when she became Queen of France.
When her husband Louis died, she was sequestered in a nunnery for a few months so everyone could be sure she was not pregnant with the king’s child. Henry sent his best friend, Charles Brandon, to fetch her back to England when it was clear she wasn’t expecting the next King of France. But here’s the twist. When she agreed to marry Louis, who was years older than her, she asked Henry to promise that once she was widowed, she could choose her own husband, that he wouldn’t use her as a political pawn again.
Mary had always had her eye on Charles Brandon. She’d been in love with him for a long time. And she didn’t quite believe her brother would keep his word. So when Brandon arrived at the French nunnery to fetch her, she talked him into marrying her.
As she suspected, Henry had had other plans for his little sister, and they didn’t include his best friend, even though he loved Brandon as a brother. The nobles weren’t happy either. With Henry’s children not exactly thick on the ground, they felt Brandon had stolen a valuable State asset by marrying Mary, and they demanded he be beheaded for treason.
Mary hadn’t returned the Mirror of Naples to Francis I, the new king of France, and she handed it over to Henry instead, as a peace offering. Henry was mollified by the sparkly gift, made all the sweeter by being French property, which he knew would drive Francis I mad, and all was (mostly) forgiven.
I’ve always thought well of Mary for thumbing her nose at two of the most powerful men on the planet, both who saw her as a political pawn.
The history I’ve given above of how the Mirror of Naples came to be in Henry’s possession all happened a good few years before KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS is set. My angle on the story was I wondered what would the French do in a situation like this? What if someone really powerful in Henry’s court had a really good reason to work with the French to get the Mirror of Naples back to them, and what if someone else really powerful caught wind of the secret deal, and thought to use it to get rid of a rival?
The answers to those questions are in KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS . I loved writing it, and especially loved my French bad boy, Jean, who is a nasty piece of work, but you can’t help remembering the Mirror of Naples really is theirs. They’re just trying to get it back.