The countdown is under way – Destiny’s Tide, the first in my new trilogy of naval historical fiction set in the Tudor age, will be published in just over a fortnight’s time, on 27 June! It’s available for pre-order, but just a reminder that it’s currently only available in e-book format.
The overall title for the trilogy is ‘Jack Stannard of the Navy Royal’, but in some senses, this is a bit of a misnomer. While the term ‘Navy Royal’ (NB: definitely not ‘Royal Navy’) was understood and used, it certainly didn’t have its modern meaning, nor even that which applied during the seventeenth century, the setting for my series ‘the journals of Matthew Quinton’. The monarch owned ships, and sometimes possessed a very substantial force of purpose-built warships, like the Mary Rose. But these were sometimes leased out to private interests, while large fleets, such as that which opposed the Armada in 1588, had to be made up of many vessels from other sources, such as the merchant communities of London and other ports of the realm, which were taken up for fixed and often short periods of time. The heterodox nature of these forces, essentially a volunteer ‘navy’, gave me my ‘handle’ for the trilogy, and my central characters. Jack Stannard isn’t a ‘naval officer’ in anything like the modern sense of the term. He’s a merchant and shipowner of Dunwich, and like so many of his fellows, one of his ships is taken up for service by the Crown during Henry VIII’s last war (1544-5). So although Jack is part of a navy, he isn’t part of the navy, as we’d understand it.
Although his experiences are fictitious, I’d like to think that they’re not too far removed from those of real contemporaries of his. Here, for example, are just some of the ships taken up to transport Henry’s army north for the Scottish campaign of 1544, just as Jack’s ship is (source – Letters and Papers of Henry VIII):
“Out of the port of London.”—The Mary Grace of Lee, Mary John of Calais, Mary John of London, James of Blakney, Trinite of Alisford, Flee of Anserdan, John of Maldon, Mary of Calais, James of Hadley, Mihel, Anthony of Dordrigh, Edwarde of Hampton, James of Fowye, Trinite of Barkinge, Esel of Armewe, Cuthbert Lawson, Anne of Antwerp, Mary of Antwerp, Mawdelyn of Antwerp, George Goldesmyth, George of Antwerp, Christopher Hunte, George of Hamborough, Mary of Hamborough, Gryffyn of Hamborough, Bartilmewe of Hamborough, Raven of Lubeck, Swanne of Hamborough.
“Out of the port of Ipswiche.”—The James, Osee, Mary, James (sic), Mary Fortune, Marlyn, Peter, Christopher of Simon “Bl.,” Anne Fraunces, Kateryn, Christopher of Alex. “Sq.,” Mary James, Andrewe, Trinite, Marlyon, Thomas, Peter of George Copinge, Peter of John Momforde, John Evangelist, Jesus, John, Thomas of Wm. Barkers, Mathewe, Nicholas of Wm. Dryver, Cicely, Nicholas, George, James, Edwarde, Mihel, Thomas of Thomas Smyth, Kateryn, [Julyane].
…and so on; this is only a fraction of the fleet. Among other things, note the highly religious, and, indeed, highly Catholic, names of many of the ships, proof that England certainly did not become a Protestant country overnight after Henry broke with Rome. How the Stannard family reacted to the religious changes of the age is another of the themes of the trilogy.
Anyway, there’s now going to be a hiatus for this blog for a couple of weeks, and when it returns, Destiny’s Tide will be out there! The reason for the interlude is that, as mentioned on the News page of this website, I’m going to be across the pond, primarily to attend the Historical Novel Society conference just outside Washington DC. There, I’ll be speaking about ‘The Way of the Warrior’ on a panel with the eminent author Jeff Shaara, moderated by Gillian Bagwell. It should be huge fun, and we’re also going to try and cram in some serious sightseeing in both New York and Washington, so I’ll report back on all that in the week beginning 1 July!