Today I welcome Kathy Lynn Emerson to my blog. This one is long overdue as I have used Kathy’s website as source material for many years. She has been kind enough to let me use her research as long as I linked to her site and give her credit – which I am more than happy to do. She put in a lot of time and energy to build such a wonderful resource for all of us. Because of this, I wanted to draw attention to her and TudorWomen.com today.
2351 Tudor Women and Still Adding More
by Kathy Lynn Emerson
It all started simply enough, way back in 1976. I wanted to write big historical novels using real sixteenth-century Englishwomen as characters. I’d been taught how to do meticulous research in grad school, but writing fiction was something I had to learn by doing. By 1980, I had collected a great many rejection letters for the novels I’d completed and had a file cabinet full of notes on interesting women who lived during the Tudor era. I’d also noticed two things. First, many of these women were mentioned only in a sentence here or a footnote there in the histories of the period or in biographies of Tudor men. Second, because some of these women married more than once and had husbands who advanced in the peerage, they were referred to by a number of different surnames and titles. In some cases, even renowned scholars didn’t seem to realize they were writing about the same person.
At that time, well before the Internet, there was no single book available to sort out who was who among the women of Tudor England, so I wrote one. Wives and Daughters: The Women of Sixteenth-Century England contained 570 mini-biographies and was published in 1984 by a small, scholarly press. It stayed in print for decades, long after it should have been revised and updated, and when the rights finally reverted to me, I set about creating an online version. In many cases, information in the original entries had been disproved by more recent scholarship. Research had changed the identification of sitters in a number of well-known portraits of sixteenth-century women. And with easier access to both primary and secondary sources thanks to material now available online, many many more tidbits about individual women had come to light.
In the period between 1984 and the present, I continued to write both fiction and nonfiction, selling over sixty books in a number of genres to a variety of publishers. A great many of the novels are set in the sixteenth-century, and every time I began research for a new one, I discovered more interesting women to add to what is now the online version of A Who’s Who of Tudor Women at TudorWomen.com.
That worked the other way, too. When I wrote the first Mistress Jaffrey mystery novel, Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe, I went back to my own entry on Mary Hastings, nicknamed “the Empress of Muscovy” because her cousin the queen at one point wanted her to marry Ivan the Terrible. She not only became a character in the novel, but her situation was the basis for the plot. In doing more research, I discovered another equally fascinating Englishwoman, Jane Richards, wife of the notorious Dr. Bomelius, physician to the tsar. After her husband’s execution, she was stranded in Moscow. Her story, with fictional embellishments, ended up as part of the mystery subplot, but the real details of her life went into a new entry for the Who’s Who.
I had similar experiences when researching each of the novels I wrote as Kate Emerson in the “Secrets of the Tudor Court” series (The Pleasure Palace, Between Two Queens, and four others). They aren’t historical romance or historical mystery, but rather fictionalized biographies of women who were allegedly intimate with Henry VIII. In writing those novels, I extrapolated from what is known about each woman to create my plots.
For entries in A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, I collect everything I can find on each individual, try my best to sort fact from speculation, and offer readers a starting place to do more research on those Tudor women who interest them. I’m constantly updating and making corrections as new information comes to light, and I’m still adding entries, sometimes from my own reading of newly published histories and biographies and sometimes from information (with citations) sent to me by people who have discovered the Who’s Who and have research of their own to share.
There are currently 2351 entries at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, along with my lists of titles used in Tudor times and women at court in the households of various Tudor queens. The home page contains instructions for finding an individual, since all those surnames and titles I mentioned earlier led me to use maiden names for the entries.
By this time, some forty years into the effort to sort out who was who among sixteenth-century women, I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. This is either a hobby or an obsession. Either way, I’m still adding interesting Tudor women to the collection.
With the June 2019 publication of Clause & Effect (written as Kaitlyn Dunnett), Kathy Lynn Emerson has had sixty books traditionally published. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.