I was sitting in the hair dressers when my dear friend Liosa McNamara, who was at the time undertaking to research my family tree in America, sent me a text and said that I would not believe what she had just discovered. I called her, as the hairdresser was about to blowdry my hair. I asked them to wait. Have you seen the Tudors, she asked me? Liosa, not the hairdresser. No, I said. Well, there was a court poet. His name was Sir Thomas Wyatt. He's your grandfather.
|Sir Thomas Wyatt 1503-1542|
I nearly fell off the swivelling chair. I knew him. I'd read his poetry in college. It was all coming back to me, the sonnets he had written. And there was one line that had always stayed with me: Noli me Tangere, for Caesar's I am.
Don't touch me. I'm Caesar's. Somehow, this line had blended in my mind with a Poussin painting of Apollo chasing Daphne. And that one line by Wyatt is the kernel of my new book. Because this line is about Ann Boleyn and Henry VIII. Once, Wyatt had loved her, and perhaps had an affair with her after he had separated from his wife, Elizabeth Brooke.
|Ann Boleyn, Second Wife of Henry VIII|
|Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger (1521-1557)|
It goes on and on, back to William the Conqueror through the Plantagenet Kings on Elizabeth Brooke's line, and all the way back through Luxembourg and Bohemia on the line going back from Sir Henry Wyatt's wife Anne Skinner, and to Louis VI of France (11th C) and back to Anne of Kiev, where at last I found some relief and distance from Anglo Saxon blood. In fact, I've literally traced myself back to the parts of Europe I had always wanted to find my roots in: Eastern Europe. There, I found a gem of a Grandmother: the daughter of Sviatoslav of Kiev. She was called Saint Olga, "Olga the Beauty" (890-969). She was the wife of Igor of Kiev, the founder of the Rurik Dynasty. Her feast day is on 11th July. This year, I'll mark it. But the Wyatts have a hold on me. As soon as I learned of them and took them on board as my own ancestors, I haven't stopped thinking about them. Sir Thomas Wyatt the poet is a friend and a guide to me. He is the muse of my new book, 'The Poetic Spy'. He has asked me to write the story of his affair with Ann Boleyn. In this story, he seeks a descendent who is willing to tell the story of this affair. He haunts Rev. Haute Wyatt before he leaves for Virginia on 'The George', and successive descendents in America, who, once visited by this roving spirit, are left a little odd. In the end, he chose me. I'm willing. He has totally captured my heart and my imagination. He guides my writing. He is calling me to America, where I will research this time-travelling novel that jumps from Tudor England to the American Revolution, to the Civil War and back to the present day.
I Find No PeaceI find no peace, and all my war is done.
I fear and hope. I burn and freeze like ice.
I fly above the wind, yet can I not arise;
And nought I have, and all the world I season.
That loseth nor locketh holdeth me in prison
And holdeth me not--yet can I scape no wise--
Nor letteth me live nor die at my device,
And yet of death it giveth me occasion.
Without eyen I see, and without tongue I plain.
I desire to perish, and yet I ask health.
I love another, and thus I hate myself.
I feed me in sorrow and laugh in all my pain;
Likewise displeaseth me both life and death,
And my delight is causer of this strife.