Saturday, January 07, 2017

Another Mystery Portrait!

My new timeslip, The Phantom Tree, was published last week and it’s so exciting to see it in the shops! This time I’m travelling between the present and the Tudor era, visiting Wolf Hall in mysterious Savernake Forest, and Littlecote Hall near Hungerford (thinly disguised as Middlecote in the book!) I blogged about the Wiltshire background to the book last month but this time I wanted to share with you the picture that started it all...

I was visiting family and saw this gorgeous picture on the wall of a woman in Tudor dress. I found it totally beguiling. She has a hint of a smile on her face as though she knows a secret, and there is a pearl missing from her hood… On the back of the picture it says it is a portrait of Anne Boleyn, one I’d never seen before. It also had another inscription in Latin. I found this totally intriguing and would love to know the history and provenance of the picture. The art dealer who sold it apparently suggested that it was a 19th century copy of a Tudor portrait. I need to find an art historian who can help discover the true story behind the picture!

However, Anne Boleyn or not, my writer’s imagination got going and I started to speculate on how
interesting it would be if it were not actually Anne but some other, lesser-known Tudor woman. I’d always been interested in Mary Seymour, Katherine Parr’s daughter, and thought it odd that no one knew what had happened to her. Such a high-born child simply to disappear…  I thought how fascinating it would be if the portrait were in fact a clue to Mary’s fate and so the idea for The Phantom Tree was born.

I love the way that so many different things can spark a story idea and then the idea grows and develops in unexpected directions. I’ve always loved timeslip stories and dual time books where a historical mystery is solved in the present but although the mystery of Mary’s disappearance is solved (fictionally) in The Phantom Tree I’m wondering if I can solve the case of the mystery portrait!


Elizabeth Hawksley said...

A fascinating possibility, Nicola. As you say, ladies of such high birth don't normally disappear without trace.

Carol McGrath said...

As a copy of a Tudor portrait it is hard to say. She certainly has a very long nose! Yes, ideas for novels do come from all sorts of places and my copy of The Phantom Tree is waiting for me on my return home.