When I was in London in 2003 for the 400th anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth I, I visited a display of her possessions. What caught my eye was a ring with a hidden lock which sprang open to reveal two tiny portraits, that of the queen herself and of her mother, Anne Boleyn. After Anne’s downfall and beheading in 1536 when Elizabeth was only three, she was forbidden by her father, Henry VIII, to speak of her mother. Yet here was proof Elizabeth had cherished the shamed and dispossessed woman. It was said that, whatever other opulent rings she wore, the Virgin Queen never removed this ring and it was only taken from her finger upon her death.
There is, of course, other proof that Elizabeth did not believe her mother had committed adultery or even, in the wildest of accusations which helped Henry rid himself of her, witchcraft. Elizabeth took for her own crest her mother’s white falcon and elevated many of her mother’s kin when she finally became queen in 1558.
That little ring gave me a great plot device for my latest historical novel, The Queen’s Governess. In the book, Anne summons Elizabeth’s governess, Katherine Ashley to the Tower, where she is under arrest for treason and gives her the ring to keep for Elizabeth until she is of age. King Henry’s discovering the ring years later on the Princess Elizabeth’s person causes him to banish her from court—an actual happening. From such small wonders and marvels as a little ring are epic stories made.
A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Karen Harper is a former college English instructor (The Ohio State University) and high school literature and writing teacher. To learn more about her book, The Queen’s Governess, click here.