Sunday, 20 January 2013

Guest blog: Anita Seymour - 'Royalist Rebel'

Intelligent, witty and beautiful, Elizabeth Murray wasn’t born noble; her family’s fortunes came from her Scottish father’s boyhood friendship with King Charles. As the heir to Ham House, their mansion on the Thames near Richmond, Elizabeth was always destined for greater things.

Royalist Rebel is the story of Elizabeth’s youth during the English Civil War, of a determined and passionate young woman dedicated to Ham House, the Royalist cause and the three men in her life; her father William Murray, son of a minister who rose to become King Charles’ friend and confidant, the rich baronet Lionel Tollemache, her husband of twenty years who adored her and John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale, Charles II’s favourite.

With William Murray at King Charles’ exiled court in Oxford, the five Murray women have to cope alone. Crippled by fines for their Royalist sympathies, and besieged by the Surrey Sequestration Committee, Elizabeth must find a wealthy, non-political husband to save herself, her sisters, and their inheritance.

Royalist Rebel is released on 17th January 2013 from Claymore Books.


Cousin Henderson stands by the open door, her face devoid of colour, and a hand pressed to her breast. She catches sight of me and her lips open, then close, but she appears unable to form any words.
‘Cousin,’ I snap, alerted to the sound of bits jangling and male shouts from outside. ‘What is happening? You look as if the entrance to Hell lies on the other side of that door.’ I attempt a half-hearted laugh. Surely nothing worse could happen after the news of yesterday? My boots click on stone as I hurry forward, my intent to demand she either close the door or explain herself.
The sight that greets me sends my stomach plunging and my breath hitches. What looks like an entire regiment of Parliamentarian soldiers line up on the other side of the gates. Two officers on horseback ride hard up and down beside the river, shouting orders, their mounts scuffing the turf with their hooves, scattering the sheep.
I release a low groan at the sight of Captain Fitton, who dismounts a massive horse that must be one of the few animals alive able to carry his substantial weight. Despite the hard times visited on the rest of us, the man looks to have increased his girth considerably. He approaches the gates with slow, deliberate strides, his sour grin firmly in place.
‘May God have mercy on us,’ Cousin Henderson whispers and grips my arm so hard, I wince.
‘I’d pray to Lord Fairfax if I were you, Cousin.’ I disengage her fingers and stride forward. ‘He is more use to us now.’
I reach the gates before the captain, and without the thought fully formed in my head, I slide the bolt into place, narrowly missing my thumb.
‘Now, Mistress Murray.’ The captain’s sing-song voice echoes across the courtyard, followed by an insulting guffaw, its echo taken up by the men behind him. ‘No slip of a girl shall disobey Sir
Richard Onslow’s orders.’
‘And what orders would those be, sir?’ I ask, playing for time.
What do they want? Is their appearance due to what has happened to Father? Are we all to be put under close arrest? I think of Mother, ill in bed, and hope one of the servants warns her.
I have no idea why or how I will achieve it, but it comes to me that if I can delay whatever they have in mind, even for a short while, a solution will present itself.
Captain Fitton plants his shovel-sized hands on his hips, and breathes onion fumes harsh enough to melt the wrought iron bars. ‘This property is to be put to the use of my men here.’ He waves
a hand at the assembled soldiers. ‘You should be grateful, Mistress. Our presence will offer protection to your family.’
‘We don’t require protection, Captain.’ My voice is steady but my knees shake. ‘Until the army came to Kingston, we were perfectly safe. We are law-abiding people.’
‘Hah! Not our law. Not Parliament’s law.’ He looks to his officers for approval which comes in nods and murmurs of assent before turning back to me. ‘Besides, the matter is not open for discussion.’ His ingratiating voice turns to a growl. ‘Now, stand aside and allow us through.’ He waves the troopers on before turning aside to talk to a man on horseback.
‘You say you have orders, Captain,’ I shout above the sound of booted feet scrambling into formation ready to begin their approach. ‘May I see them?’ Panic lifts my voice an octave higher,
but I hold my ground. Despite his coarse manners, surely Captain Fitton would not revert to force? I am half his size and to drag me bodily away from the gates is bound to diminish him in the eyes of
his men. Yet a doubt lingers. If only I had a stout padlock for this gate!
Fitton narrows his eyes. ‘You’ve a brave mouth on you, Mistress Murray for someone whose father is in the Tower as a spy.’ A gleam of malice appears in his eyes and I have to resist the urge to spit in his face.
‘My father will be released soon. He has powerful friends who-’
‘Friends who could not keep him out of gaol in the first place. Put not your trust in them, lady.’ His heavy features harden with angry contempt. ‘Now, get this gate open.’
The lines of foot soldiers halt, murmuring in mild confusion. A voice says something I do not catch, followed by a shout of coarse laughter that sends warmth into my face.
Fury keeps me defiant, though I doubt my feet would move even if I wanted them to. ‘I will not prevent you, Captain, if that is what Sir Richard decrees. However, I insist you show me your orders so I may see how many are to be quartered here, and what is required of us.’ I am gabbling, unsure of my ground, but determined not to give in without a fight.
He lifts his arms and lets them fall again. ‘I don’t have the documents with me. You will have to take my word they exist. Now if you would stand aside.’
‘No! I demand to see the papers first.’
His eyes widen, then dull with anger. He utters several incoherent sounds, most probably curses, and lurches at the gate. His fingers resemble fat sausages as he grips the bars on either side of his scowling face. The sight so ridiculous, it is all I can do not to laugh.
‘Would you defy the Parliament army?’ he bellows, ‘I order you to allow my men to pass!’
I lick my lips, fearing my voice is about to desert me altogether. ‘I defy no one. I merely ask that you allow me to see your written orders.’
My quiet tone seems to anger him more, and his lips curl cruelly upward.
A soldier sidles to the captain’s shoulder, glances briefly at me, then whispers something to the captain.
Captain Fitton’s skin turns a dull red and he cocks his chin at me in contempt. ‘You tell her!’ He throws me a contemptuous snarl, and then stomps away to join his group of officers, all of whom
regard me with similar disdain.
The man before me is young and athletic-looking. He removes his lobster-tail helmet, gives a polite bow and regards me with intelligent eyes.
Immediately I relax, knowing I can reason with this man. Then I wonder what makes someone like him join the New Model Army. His coat is well made and fits him without a wrinkle. His boots are
new and highly polished, and his short sword is obviously the work of a master craftsman.
‘I apologise for this unexpected intrusion, Mistress Murray,’ he says, his voice smooth and courtier-like. ‘Captain Fitton appears oblivious of the fact that your household may not be prepared for the invasion of forty extra-er guests.’ He indicates the captain, who glowers at me from a distance.
‘Forty?’ I stare at the young man, open-mouthed. ‘How are we expected to accommodate so many?’ I envisage eighty booted feet scuffing our floors and wiping dirty hands on the bed hangings.
My ears start to buzz and I swallow noisily.
He shrugs and offers a deprecating smile. ‘Our requirements are quite basic. I am sure we shall manage.’ He fixes me with a direct gaze. ‘Besides, Mistress. You have no choice.’
‘I do not mean to thwart you, or Captain Fitton.’ I hesitate, ‘I’m sorry, I do not know your name.’
‘It is Carter, Mistress. Sergeant Robin Carter.’
‘Well, Sergeant Carter. Are we to be given no opportunity to prepare? Apart from the servants, we are five women alone. Surely you would allow us time to organise our accommodation to allow
for the presence of so many men?’
‘If you would wait but a moment, Mistress.’ He blows air through pursed lips, his gaze on the knot of officers. Then he turns and strides to where Captain Fitton stands.
I clench my fists at my side as they hold an earnest conversation, which Fitton punctuates with jerky arm movements and a permanent scowl.
What am I doing? They will occupy the house whether I fight every officer in the troop or not. I will have to let them in eventually, so why humiliate myself? I cast a look behind me and have to suppress a laugh. The horrified faces of my cousin and my sisters line up behind the upper front windows. The lower ones display Master Ball, the housekeeper, and that of several nervous-looking maids and footmen.
A gentle tap on the gate brings my attention back to Sergeant Carter. ‘Um-Captain Fitton has agreed to return at this time tomorrow with the documents you requested, Mistress Murray.’ I am about to
thank him when his smile dissolves. ‘We concede you triumphed today, however, he will be less accommodating on the morrow.’
His voice drops to a whisper. ‘Whatever you feel you gained by this action, I hope it is worth it.’
So do I.


Anita Seymour
Born in London, Anita has always been fascinated with the history of that city. She began writing historical family sagas, then experimented with Victorian Gothic romance, though now she feels she has found her niche with 17th Century historical biographical novels with her latest book, 'Royalist Rebel' released by Claymore Books in January 2013. She also reviews for the Historical Novel Review Blog

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