The Courtesan of Padua (A Tudor Life Book 3)

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It was a world that surprised me, when I first began researching the Renaissance and the role of women inside it.

My previous three books were all set in ancient Rome, an era where better-born women had a surprising number of rights. Legally, the women of Imperial Rome had the right to keep some control over the property they brought with them in marriage, the right to initiate a divorce should their husband prove unsatisfactory, and the right to administer their own lives as they pleased if they were widows with multiple children.


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Socially Roman women mixed freely with men, they were immensely respected in their important role of bearing and raising free Roman citizens, and they were honored by the state on special religious holidays and with their own deities. Then I began researching the role of women for my next book, set about a thousand years later.

Medieval, Early Modern, Theory

But that was a small percentage of the moneyed aristocratic class. Unmarried girls were kept firmly sequestered in the house to guard their virtue; the only place they might go to see and be seen was church. Even after marriage, Renaissance matrons were expected to keep to their own households, their lives a round of domestic duties, the occasional family party, and of course, more church. The Renaissance was an era of dowry inflation, a vicious cycle where large families often encouraged only one son of the batch to marry and have children, so that family assets could be preserved whole rather than shared out between multiple heirs.

Thus, even wealthy families found it hard to marry off more than one daughter—and then the spare daughters were frequently dumped in convents to become nuns, whether or not they had any religious vocation. The result was a lot of resentful nuns who treated their convents more as sorority houses than places of worship, living off allowances from their families, keeping pets, getting regular gossipy visits from their married sisters, and barely bothering to go to prayers at all. The third career option was prostitution—and the courtesans of the Renaissance were indeed famous.

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Renaissance Venice boasted almost as many courtesans as nuns, and these women were frequently famous for their wit and their learning as well as their beauty. In the Shadow of Lady Jane traces the impact on a young man of being caught up in the melee of change, as the Protestant King Edward VI was replaced by the fiercely Catholic Queen Mary Tudor, an experience which was to change him deeply and strongly influence the rest of his life in more ways that one.

Hans Holbein came to London in and died there seventeen years later, having lived in the city for most of the intervening years.

This volume follows his life for the first ten years of that period, until when the king was injured, Queen Anne Boleyn was executed, and everything fell apart. Holbein was an outsider; a German, arriving in a very foreign land and not speaking the language. His priority was to find employment and accommodation. Rich patrons were the path to both and he arrived bearing a letter of introduction to Sir Thomas More. During his stay, the places where he lived and the people he lived amongst had a strong influence on his daily life.

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For that reason, this book is broken into sections; each referring to the place he called home for that period of time. He began in Chelsea — living in the household of Sir Thomas More.

Then he returned to Basel, only to find it no longer felt like home. But even then there was disruption, because Cromwell, having recently become Master of the Rolls, and planning extensive rebuilding of his house at Austin Friars, moved the whole household lock, stock and barrel across the city to The Rolls House in Chancery Lane and it was there that Holbein went to live. He was to remain at Chancery Lane until , a year in which Henry VIII unexpectedly reached middle age and sustained a jousting wound which changed his life; a year in which Anne Boleyn was executed, and it seemed, the whole world turned upside-down.

Holbein was a serious and straightforward man.

the courtesan of padua a tudor life book 3 Manual

He believed fervently in truth, honesty and loyalty. But having seen his artist father bankrupted and his brother, also an artist, commit suicide due to lack of success, he felt driven to succeed and moved to England where the opportunities were said to be better, leaving his wife and family behind.

Ted Hughes, British Poet Laureate (1984-1998)

But the England he finds is in turmoil. The wheel of fortune seems to be spinning out of control.