The Godmother’s Secret, Snippet by Elizabeth St. John

If you knew the fate of the Princes in the Tower, would you tell? Or forever keep the secret?

May 1483: The Tower of London. When King Edward IV dies and Lady Elysabeth Scrope delivers her young godson, Edward V, into the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation, she is engulfed in political turmoil. Within months, the prince and his brother have disappeared, Richard III is declared king, and Elysabeth’s sister Margaret Beaufort conspires with her son Henry Tudor to invade England and claim the throne.

Desperate to protect her godson, Elysabeth battles the intrigue, betrayal, and power of the last medieval court, defying her Yorkist husband and her Lancastrian sister under her godmother’s sacred oath to keep Prince Edward safe. Bound by blood and rent by honour, Elysabeth is torn between King Richard and Margaret Beaufort, knowing that if her loyalty is questioned, she is in peril of losing everything—including her life.

Were the princes murdered by their uncle, Richard III? Did Margaret Beaufort mastermind their disappearance to usher in the Tudor dynasty? Or did the young boys vanish for their own safety? Of anyone at the royal court, Elysabeth has the most to lose–and the most to gain–by keeping secret the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

Inspired by England’s most enduring historical mystery, Elizabeth St.John blends her family history with known facts and centuries of speculation to create an intriguing story about what happened to the Princes in the Tower.

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Chapter 10: Spring 1483 | Stony Stratford

“Go to Ned’s chamber, Lady Scrope. You can see for yourself—there, upstairs, with the guard on the door.” Gloucester nods across the mud-rutted stable yard of the Rose and Crown in Stony Stratford. “’Struth, but this is a piss-poor place for the King of England to spend the night. But directly on the London road.” He glances at Harry. “I believe you are right. Lord Rivers is preparing for a speedy departure.”

“And that he will have,” responds Harry. “But perhaps not in the direction he planned.” He gestures at me impatiently. “Go now to the king.”

I dismount and walk cautiously up the broken wooden stairs to the outer gallery. Harry’s ranting increased on the brief ride from Northampton, his cursing against the Woodvilles unbearable. I just want to hold Ned, comfort him and give him courage to face the days ahead. The poor boy has lost his father. The rest is men’s talk.

The guard is sleepy, his air distracted.

“I am Lady Scrope. Godmother to King Edward.”

He just stares ahead.

“Let me pass.”

Reluctantly, he moves to one side.

My precious boy stands in the middle of the room, quite alone. He cries in surprise and runs into my arms. Ned’s thin frame is trembling like a stricken rabbit. He is now my king, but he is also my boy, a mere twelve-year-old lad guarded and alone in his chamber in this dilapidated inn.

“My father.” His voice cracks like a broken reed. “Oh, Lady Scrope, I did not get to say good-bye to him.”

“Hush. Hush, my Ned.” His baby name slips out naturally. I hug him for the longest time, feeling his tense shoulders gradually lower. I can feel him struggling not to cry, and I must help him gather his emotions. I hold him at arm’s length to look into his eyes. “Be brave, my darling, take courage. You must be strong, be true to your destiny.”

“But not yet, Lady Scrope. I’m not ready yet.” His eyes well with tears again. My heart breaks.

“Listen to me,” I say fiercely. “Just as Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, kingship has been thrust upon you.”

He looks at me, his head tilted. “And he didn’t even know he would be king.”

I knew I’d capture his imagination. “No, he didn’t. And look how brave he was.”

Ned childishly scrubs his face, a crimson flush on his fair skin. “Our favourite story. Do you think I could be a great king like Arthur?”

“Yes, my darling. Yes. For you have been schooled well in chivalry, Ned. Your father and Lord Rivers have prepared you since your birth for this moment, although it has indeed come too quickly.” I gently wipe a tear from his smooth cheek. “And you have me, Lord Scrope, and your mother, Dickon, and your sisters, your family who loves you so very much, to help you.” 

Ned lifts his chin, sucks in a deep shuddering breath. I free the crucifix from my purse and fold it into his palms, pressing his hands around the precious relic.

“From your father, to my care.” I stroke the blond hair that tufts from his damp forehead in the way it has grown since he was four years old. “So you would know he is always with you, Ned. And that he entrusts me with your well-being.”

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Meet Elizabeth St. John

Elizabeth St.John’s critically acclaimed historical fiction novels tell the stories of her ancestors: extraordinary women whose intriguing kinship with England’s kings and queens brings an intimately unique perspective to Medieval, Tudor, and Stuart times.

Inspired by family archives and residences from Lydiard Park to the Tower of London, Elizabeth spends much of her time exploring ancestral portraits, diaries, and lost gardens. And encountering the occasional ghost. But that’s another story.

Living between California, England, and the past, Elizabeth is the International Ambassador for The Friends of Lydiard Park, an English charity dedicated to conserving and enhancing this beautiful centuries-old country house and park. As a curator for The Lydiard Archives, she is constantly looking for an undiscovered treasure to inspire her next novel.

Elizabeth’s books include her trilogy, The Lydiard Chronicles, set in 17th Century England during the Civil War, and her newest release, The Godmother’s Secret, which explores the medieval mystery of the missing Princes in the Tower of London.

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