Saturday, May 19, 2018

Earl of Sussex: "Right trustie and right well beloved cousin"


With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle taking the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex, it made me think of a person who bore the title of Sussex and played a crucial part in the life of Elizabeth I.

His name was Thomas Radclyffe, and he was the third Earl of Sussex.



Throughout her whole life, Elizabeth turned to and trusted the relatives on the side of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Thomas Radclyffe was part of the Howard clan. Anne Boleyn's mother. Elizabeth Howard, was his aunt. 

Although Sussex signed the document agreeing to the accession of Lady Jane Grey, which was what Edward VI wanted, he was one of the courtiers who broke away early on and rode to the camp of Princess Mary, Henry VIII's oldest daughter, to offer her support in taking the throne. Mary made him her commander-in-chief during the time when it looked as if she would have to wage a battle. Sussex had Catholic sympathies and Mary's efforts to return the country to the Old Religion must have appealed.

Sussex, at that point 28 years old, became an important councilor to Mary after she'd officially ousted Jane Grey. But it was after the Wyatt Rebellion, when those who opposed Mary's marriage to the Catholic Prince Philip, that Sussex's loyalty to his cousin Elizabeth became clear as well. Elizabeth was arrested under suspicion of conspiring against Mary, and a deputation of lords that included Sussex came to take Princess Elizabeth to the Tower of London on Saturday, March 17.

Elizabeth protested being taken to the Tower, asking to see the Queen, her half-sister. She was told no. She then asked to write a letter to the Queen and that too was refused. Elizabeth was by all accounts very upset. 

But it was at that point Sussex came forward. 

Sussex fell to his knees before Elizabeth and said, "You shall have liberty to write your mind and, as I am a true man, I will deliver your letter to the Queen and beg an answer, whatsoever comes there of."

Elizabeth wrote a pleading, eloquent letter, protesting her innocence, which Sussex then took to Queen Mary. She was enraged that Elizabeth was allowed to write to her and said, "Such a thing would never have been allowed in my father's time!"

Elizabeth survived her ordeal in the Tower, when she came closest to execution than any other time in her life, and it was in part due to the intervention of Sussex. There was no hard evidence against Elizabeth, and a leading nobleman in the realm being willing to risk the Queen's wrath to support her sister may well have slowed down the movement to proceed against Elizabeth.

Sussex continued to support her throughout Mary's reign, and when Elizabeth I became Queen in 1558, he was one of her most important courtiers. Sussex always distrusted Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, but even though he vigorously opposed her marrying Dudley and criticized him at every turn, Elizabeth never punished him for it.

In her letters to him, Elizabeth addressed Sussex in a 1570 letter as her "right trustie and right well beloved cousin," and he was a key councilor for the rest of his life.

Sussex is without a doubt an admirable title.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Crown in the Czech Republic

I'm excited to report that my first novel, The Crown, sold well in the Czech Republic. Its publisher was Euromedia Group--I still have the facebook post from a few years ago on how excited I was to get them as my twelfth foreign publisher for the book, when the deal was first made.

Its title is Koruna. And my name becomes Nancy Bilyeauova :)

I think part of the reason the book is doing well is its dramatic cover:



What do you think?




Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Cover Reveal Day for "The Blue"!



Today is the day to share with everyone the cover of "The Blue," my historical thriller set in the 18th century that asks the question: What would you do for the most beautiful color in the world?

The cover was created by designers at Endeavour Quill, my UK-based publisher for the novel. I think they did a great job!




I can also share the very first endorsement blurb: ‘Bilyeau’s sumptuous tale of mystery and intrigue transports the reader into the heart of the 18th century porcelain trade—where the price of beauty was death.’ E.M. Powell, author of the Stanton & Barling medieval mystery series.


In this book, I plunge into the luxury-obsessed Georgian society of the 1750s, when someone would go bankrupt collecting porcelain. But it was also the time of a war with France, and spying between the two countries was flourishing. In "The Blue," these two worlds intersect, with a heroine, Genevieve Planche, drawn from the Huguenot Spitalfields neighborhood.

This book is a big departure for me, based on years of research, and I worked to develop some multi-faceted characters.

I need your support :) Please go to my brand new Goodreads page, and mark the novel "Want to Read." I'd be extremely grateful :)

The book will be published this Fall, in print and on digital in the UK and US. Details to follow...



Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Inspiration for "Phantom Thread"



I fell in love with the film Phantom Thread last December, and immediately set about to learn all I could about Cristobal Balenciaga, the Spanish haute couture legend who inspired Daniel Day Lewis. I approached the website Willow & Thatch to write about the film and its inspiration. Willow & Thatch is doing a wonderful job of covering historical films and TV series.


Story begins here:

With the balloon skirt, and the tunic, chemise and baby-doll dresses, fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga reinvented the 20th century female silhouette. Balenciaga was a man ahead of his time, and he’s the inspiration for Reynolds Woodcock, the lead character in the 1950s-set new period drama Phantom Thread.

The Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum remembers him as “Perfectionist, extraordinarily technical, creative, innovative… He was a genius that revolutionized the concept of dressing… Wherever he went, Cristobal Balenciaga sparked passions.”
Below, Nancy Bilyeau looks at how Phantom Thread opens the door to understanding a very private, and extraordinarily gifted, man.

Phantom Thread's Inspiration

By Nancy Bilyeau
“One fainted. It was possible to blow up and die.”

Those were the words of legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland about seeing the new work of a certain designer at his Paris house. There was one fashion show in particular, held in the early 1960s, when Vogue Editor in Chief Vreeland recalled, “Audrey Hepburn turned to me and asked why I wasn’t frothing at the mouth at what I was seeing. I told her I was trying to act calm and detached because, after all, I was a member of the press. Across the way Gloria Guinness was sliding out of her chair on to the floor. Everyone was going up in flame and thunder.”

The collection they were seeing was one by Cristóbal Balenciaga.

What may seem bizarre to us now, in the age when fashion designers employ battalions of publicists and Instagram launches style Influencers who expose to the world their hour-by-hour clothing choices, is that there was no question of Balenciaga appearing before the public at the end of that particular 1960s show, one displaying his “masterpieces of sculptural purity,” as they were described, or of giving even a single interview. There could only be perhaps a glimpse of the man that Christian Dior called “a master for all of us”: From the doorway to the ateliers, Balenciaga often peeked through a hole in the curtain.


For the rest of the story, go to Willow and Thatch, a wonderful website: link.