Edward CharlesWelcome to Edward Charles Novels in History

Edward Charles’s first novel, In the Shadow of Lady Jane was published by Macmillan New Writing in May 2006. 

Since then he has written three more novels in the Richard Stocker series, (following Richard from Tudor England to Renaissance Padua and Venice).

A change of direction took him to Florence in the 1400’s and the rise and subsequent fall of the Medici. This has resulted in The House of Medici – Inheritance of Power and The House of Medici – Seeds of Decline. Both are available from Pen& Sword Books, from Amazon and the usual booksellers, as e-books with Kindle and as Apple i-books.

Now he's returned to Tudor England, following Hans Holbein as he leaves Basel and journeys to London and the Tudor Court. Into the Lion's Cage covers the first ten years of Holbein's life in London, first living with Sir Thomas More and later joining the household of Thomas Cromwell. It is soon to be released as an Apple i-book and on Amazon Kindle.

The years 1526 - 1536 were exciting, but troubled years and many times, Holbein was to ask himself what is the price of loyalty when nothing ever stays the same?

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Comment from Edward Charles – How it all began

I didn’t set out to write a first novel. Like so many interesting things in life, In the Shadow of Lady Jane, started with a chance remark.

It was the autumn of 2001 - shortly after 9/11 and I had stopped working. My wife and I had recently moved to East Devon and now were visiting Shute Barton (originally Shute House)  for the first time. In the course of the tour, the guide from the National Trust said:

"The house used to belong to the Grey family – Lord Henry Grey was the Marquess of Dorset in the 1550s – and it is said that Lady Jane Grey once visited the house, although exactly when, no-one is sure."

That started me thinking and I set about reading all the biographies of Lady Jane Grey available at the time, and a dozen or so history books of the period, to see whether such a visit might have been possible. Within a few months my computer had a time line of her life, where she was and what she did, who she met and so on.

It became clear that the only time she could have visited Shute House (now called Shute Barton) was in early April 1551. The rest of her life was pretty well mapped out.

Suppose I asked myself, a local lad had met the three Grey sisters during that visit, had somehow become involved with them, and had finally become part of their household. What might have happened to him?

Local history books provided a John Stocker, farming across the valley at the time. He had a son, also called John, but he was already committed to his farm, further up the valley; so in my mind, I invented a second son, called Richard Stocker.

 But was the idea feasible? The key to his story was the founding of Colyton Grammar School in 1546. This, as the name suggests, allowed a few local boys to learn Latin grammar, and it was that advantage which, with an English population of only 3.1 million (few of whom could read and write English, let alone Latin) gave such boys access to an entirely different world. (William Shakespeare was to follow a similar path from obscurity through Stratford Grammar School only a few years later.)

The real Stocker family had a neighbour at Blamphayne, the next farm, by the name of Dr Thomas Marwood. Both farms still exist and I am told Dr Marwood’s initials are carved over the fireplace at Blamphayne.

Born in 1512, Marwood travelled to Padua to study medicine and practiced in Honiton until well into his eighties. In 1592 he was reputedly invited to London to cure the Earl of Essex, a feat which earned him great wealth. He married three times, the third time at the age of 96 (to a lady wonderfully called Patience). He built a house in Honiton, which was only demolished during the construction of the railway in 1846. However, Marwood House, the house he built for his son, still stands today, at the end of Honiton High Street.

When a character like that muscles his way into your story, you simply move over and make room.

Later, after Lady Jane had been executed, and I was looking for another story, it was clear that Richard had to join Marwood, who really did accompany Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, on an extended visit to Venice. That true story led to Daughters of the Doge.

The rest sort of grew.

About the author

Edward Charles was born in South Wales in 1941 and brought up in north London.

He developed his interest in English social and economic history at school, but, believing it would never find him a job, studied economics and law at the University College of Wales and then took a PhD in corporate finance at (the then formative) Manchester Business School.

After a short period as a lecturer in Business Studies at Liverpool University he began a career in finance and management consulting, before entering the City and international business, working in Europe, the USA and Asia.

Dr Charles now lives in Devon where, in between fly fishing and walking his dogs, he is working on a second Holbein novel. He also paints in oils. The results should soon be archived on the Paintings page.

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