With the launch of my new blog I begin a journey to what I hope will become a biography of an amazing lady from the courts of King Henry VIII and Queen Mary I. This tale begins during the 2001 season of the Maryland Renaissance Festival when I was cast as a member of the royal court.
My love affair with Tudor history began when I was ten years old. That summer of 1971, CBS broadcast on Sunday evenings The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour followed by an import from the BBC, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. I was entranced with the tale of this king and his wives. Okay, I admit it, I had a serious crush on Keith Michell. Just watch his first appearance as the teenage Prince Henry in that doublet and hose and you would as well. The program was rebroadcast that fall on PBS as part of the fledgling Masterpiece Theater program along with its sequel, Glenda Jackson as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth R.
That fall, I had a long term substitute teacher who gave me Neville Williams book, Henry VIII and His Court. The book was a premium for PBS memberships. My Tudor history personal library has exploded in size since then. It seemed natural that I would audition to become a member of the professional acting company of the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It took two auditions before I was hired and I have had a fulfilling 19 year career during which I have honed my improvisational skills, acted in Shakespeare plays and written several children's theater pieces.
A major turning point for me was when, after several years as a core member of the villagers of Revel Grove I was cast as a member of King Henry VIII's royal court. Finally I would have the opportunity to show off my knowledge of history and delve deeply into one of Queen Katherine of Aragon's loyal ladies. The lady I was chosen to portray was Gertrude Courtenay, the Marchioness of Exeter.
If anyone knows who Gertrude Courtenay was it is as the mother of Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon who was caught up in Wyatt's rebellion during the reign of Queen Mary I. In 2012, readers of Nancy Bilyeau's may recognize Gertrude and her husband, Henry as characters in her book, The Chalice. In 2001, I was starting from scratch, with very little information and my journey over the past 12 years has been to uncover the life of a truly remarkable woman.
I hope that my blog and the research I hope to reveal over time a portrait of an amazing woman who served three of King Henry VIII's queens, was married to the King's first cousin and possibly, the traitor who got away with her treasons to be rewarded for her loyalty as a trusted lady of the bedchamber to Queen Mary I. I hope that this journey is interesting to fellow Tudor history aficionados.