A Novel of Elizabeth Murray, Lady Tollemache, Countess Dysart
and Duchess Lauderdale, from Claymore Books
Elizabeth Murray 1626-1698
The story of Elizabeth Murray's youth during the English Civil War, her fight to keep what is rightfully hers and her survival in a land where Puritanism exerted an ever tightening grip. The eldest daughter of William Murray, Gentleman of the Bedchamber to King Charles I and Catherine Bruce, Elizabeth proud of her Scots heritage, which she could trace back to James II of Scotland.
Aged sixteen when Civil War broke out in England, destroying her family's dreams for a future allied to the royal house of Stuart. With her father at the exiled Court in Oxford, as well as running missions as the King's envoy between Queen Henrietta in Paris, the Murray women were left to cope alone. Hounded by the Sequestration Committee intent on depriving them of their home, Elizabeth and her mother appealed to their Covenanter relations, determined never to give in to the Rebels.
When Parliamentary soldiers were quartered on their property, the Murray women were subjected to having their house invaded, their livestock stolen and the grounds torn up to grow food for the soldiers. In order to protect her daughters' inheritance, Catherine Murray needed to find a husband for Elizabeth to keep Ham safe; but where in the whole of England is there such a man of fortune and status who is not aligned to Parliament, nor has risked and lost everything for King Charles?
With her betrothal to Sir Lionel Tollemache, a Suffolk landowner more interested in hunting that fighting is imminent, Elizabeth also formed an attachment to John Maitland, Earl Lauderdale, a brash red-headed Scot who was willing to risk everything for the Royalist cause. However, when her father is arrested and put on trial for spying, will Sir Lionel Tollemache still accept an allegiance with a traitor's family, and how can they get William Murray freed from the Tower of London before anything worse happens?
Gillian Bagwell, author of The Darling Strumpet, The King’s Mistress (U.S. title The September Queen) and Venus in Winter.
Royalist Rebel brings to vivid life the perilous days of the English Civil Wars, when the families who had been the most loyal to the crown had the most to fear. Elizabeth Dysart is an engaging heroine, and our blood thrills with hers as she looks danger in the eye and meets every challenge with courage. Anita Seymour skillfully recounts one of the most tumultuous periods in Britain’s history, and her novel is a great addition to the heartbreaking story of those times.Jen Black, Historical Fiction Author
Elizabeth Murray is a force to be reckoned with as she strives to protect her beloved Ham House, the Jacobean mansion on the banks of the Thames, from the hands of marauding soldiers. Brought up to support Charles I and his Catholic Queen, she helps her Scottish father, William Murray, once the boyhood friend of the king, as he tries to secure the king’s throne. with Murray sharing the king’s exile at Oxford, Elizabeth, her mother and three sisters must endure the privations of life with dwindling food supplies, cold houses and the increasing humiliations of the Parliamentary officers of Cromwell’s New Model Army. She watches with mounting fury as crude soldiers are billeted at Ham House.
In spite of the social unrest of the period she forms a quasi-friendship with Oliver Cromwell which to some extent relieves the worst of the pressure on her family. She marries a rich baronet, enters into the politics of the Civil War and witnesses the horror of Charles I’s execution. She also conceives a great passion for a rebel Scottish earl.
Elizabeth is documented in history and while her looks would not be thought remarkable today, she was also acknowledged as one of the beauties of her age. Aware of her looks, intelligence and position in society, she is no man’s simpering moppet; indeed, some might think her hard, even cruel, in her dealings with her sisters and servants. But through the eight tumultuous years between 1643 and 1651, her strength and resilience are the weapons she needs to survive and protect her family and her home.
The author had conveyed the horrors of a country at war with itself in her own graceful style and created a character who will live long in the minds of her readers. It is an excellent read.
The Joys of Critiquing: by Vicky English, Historical Fiction Author
One of the great things about being a member of a critique group is you get a sneak preview of books before they come out. In my case, it was Anita Seymour’s Royalist Rebel. This historical novel, due to be released on the 17th of January is based on the early life of Elizabeth Murray, a fascinating woman who managed to walk the line between being one of King Charles’s most loyal supporters and maintaining a friendship with Charles’ enemy, Oliver Cromwell.
The trouble with blurbs is that, although they give you a glimpse into the challenges the characters face, they fall short when it comes to revealing the author’s style. And in Anita’s case, the style is positively delightful. She has a gift for finding the precise world-building detail that brings you right back into the seventeenth century and at the same time adds a layer of meaning. While giving you a chuckle or two along the way. Her characters are multi-layered. The conflict within Elizabeth ’s family is as compelling as the struggle between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers. Anita’s research is thorough and deep and she’s put a lot of thought into making sense of Elizabeth ’s motives and actions. By the time you’ve finished reading Royalist Rebel, you can see why Elizabeth had the love and admiration of the men in her life, including the leader of the cause sworn to undermine everything she stood for.
The good news is the Royalist Rebel is only the start. Anita’s already at work on a sequel and I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Maggi Andersen, Romance Author - January 2013
I don’t read many books based on real-life historical characters, and was pleasantly surprised at how ROYALIST REBEL kept me turning the pages eagerly until the very last sentence. Anita Seymour makes an excellent job of bringing to life Elizabeth Murray’s dangerous life as the daughter of Royalists. Elizabeth’s extraordinary parents acted as spies to bring about the return of Charles I to the throne during the English Civil Wars.
Families who were loyal to the crown had much to fear from Cromwell and his followers. Times became hard and cruel as Elizabeth Murray’s life changes from one of luxury and privilege to difficulty and despair when she’s in danger of losing everything. But Elizabeth is up for the challenge, a wily heroine not without flaws, but I admired her and was caught up in her story, finding it at times thrilling and at times heartrending, as she deals with what life throws at her with immense courage and intelligence.
Well done, Anita Seymour, for so skilfully recounting Elizabeth’s life during one of the most tumultuous periods in Britain’s history, and as Lady Tollemache after her arranged marriage, when she has little power, plots and plans to keep her beloved home, Ham House, a Jacobean mansion built on the River Thames at Petersham.
Seymour has converted me to reading more stories about actual historical figures. I wait with anticipation to her next release.
Maggi Andersen is a writer of historical romance and romantic suspense. Her latest release is the first in Spies of Mayfair Series: A Baron in Her Bed.
Historical Novel Review Blog - 29th January 2013
Royalist Rebel is a biographical novel about the tumultuous life of Elizabeth Murray, the Countess of Dysart, and later, the Duchess of Lauderdale. Born into a noble family and staunchly loyal to King Charles, their livelihood is threatened and daily life turns perilous when civil war breaks out. Elizabeth’s royalist father works secretly for his monarch while the women of the family suffer sanctions and live in near destitution in Ham House. Rebels are everywhere and they are under constant suspicion. Faced with difficult decisions and torn between duty and love, Elizabeth strives to do what is best for those she loves.
Written in first person present tense, the feeling that you get when reading the novel is one of immediacy and clarity. Elizabeth’s character is beautifully depicted with all her virtues as well as her faults. This is due to the fact that Anita Seymour lived near Ham House and walked its corridors, its garden, its pathways. Her first hand knowledge of the scenery, décor, and locale make the story extra sharp with detail, lending it great credibility.
I believe that behind every great woman is a great man. In Elizabeth’s case, two great men – Baronet Lionel Tollemache, her loving husband of several decades, and her true love, John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale. Both men are depicted insightfully through Elizabeth’s eyes.
Extremely well-rounded characters and their individual dreams, ambitions, and plights pepper each page of this fascinating novel. Most importantly of all, King Charles’ execution is written with poignancy and respect, and remains one of my favourite parts of the book.
Royalist Rebel is a novel of survival in desperate times and the ability of one one woman to overcome adversity in a period when women had little rights and were nothing more than chattel. A beautiful story with eloquent prose that truly brings the era to life! Historical fiction at its very best.
Mirella Patzer is a writer of biographical historical fiction.
Historical Novel Society - February 2013
Elizabeth Murray, an actual historic person, was the eldest daughter of a fiercely Royalist Scottish family. Her father was a courtier, and her mother passed messages to Royalist spies. In this novel set between 1643 and 1651, we follow Elizabeth’s development from a 17-year-old beauty through marriage and motherhood during the trials and dangers of the Civil War. Her beloved home, Ham House, is occupied by Parliament’s soldiers, and the family lives under constant suspicion. However, Elizabeth’s charms win over Cromwell as well as her rich first husband and also Earl Lauderdale, her second and her great love.
This is a novel without much plot. Instead, it is a well-drawn picture of the Royalists’ struggle to exist and serve the king under Parliamentary rule. Because Elizabeth, confined to Ham House, is the narrator, the battles must take place off-stage so they are reported by gossip and rumour. The king’s execution is the only event she witnesses (which seems unlikely), but it makes dramatic sense. Seymour is excellent on the stress and the depredations as normal life disintegrates. No one can be trusted. Domestic and social details are convincingly in period; so are Elizabeth’s snobbery and arrogance. She is reputed to be a beauty with great charm, but in her first-person narrative she comes across as self-centred and snappish. In this long novel, Seymour has created a three-dimensional character although one who is hard to like.
Highly recommended for Civil War buffs.
Francine Howarth - July 2013
Although I am far from a fan of first-person narrative, I do love the period of the English Civil Wars. Therefore, I decided to lay aside the fact Royalist Rebel is written wholly from the viewpoint of Mistress Elizabeth Murray. I’m glad I did because Ms Seymour paints a vivid picture of life at Ham House. Given that Elizabeth’s earlier (un-chronicled) life is the author’s creation it blends well with known facts of the young woman’s rise from relatively modest beginnings to that of wealth and title. It’s a well-researched book in terms of the political scores and all credit to the author for a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I like the way Elizabeth Murray’s story begins with highlighting her present circumstances and the staunch allegiance of her parents to the Royalist cause. All the while her haughty manner and fundamental belief the enemy consist of nothing but filthy (smelly) Puritan folk (of low-birth) seems to imply Mistress Murray is indeed ignorant to the fact members of the aristocracy are fighting on both sides of the great divide. Nor does she seem cognisant to the fact that not all Parliamentarian soldiers are of Puritan mindset. I confess there were times when I despised Elizabeth’s conceited grandiose self image and her prejudiced outlook, but she’s not a fictional character and I didn’t have to like her to admire her unstinting desire to keep Ham House in the family.
As time moves on and Ham House is under threat of seizure by the Parliamentarian Sequestration Committee, (a method of punishing supporters or suspected collaborators of the Royalist cause), Elizabeth resists at every given turn, though is often forced to capitulate when events and circumstances are beyond her control. But, if something is wanted badly enough, then feminine guile to deceive Cromwell and feminine wile to gain a titled husband is worth the risk in the overall scheme of bettering her position within society and gaining a long for coveted title.
The Book Babe - Tara Chevrestt
I know next to nothing about the English Civil War and the Charles vs the Puritans thing...until now, now that I've read this. This novel shows us that war from the Royalist side from the eyes of Elizabeth Murray. Because her father was Charles's whipping boy and now part of the court, her family endures much abuse at the hands of the rebels. They face constant threat of losing their lands, harassment at every turn, and live in fear.
But that doesn't stop these ladies from speaking sharply and also, carrying royal secrets...and by these ladies I mean Elizabeth and her mother.
Elizabeth comes off as a tad unlikable at times, I won't lie. She's scathing toward her cousin. I didn't much like how she treated the servants, but it's to be expected for that time period. And as this is based on a real woman, well, you can't change the lady's personality!
I actually liked her though. I liked how she continuously stood up to the rebels when they showed up, how she was willing to marry to save her family home and help her family. She didn't become petulant or whiny. She knew what needed to be done.
If you're interested in the reign of Charles II, in Cromwell's army and rise to power, (this is the beginning stages), how Parliament took over, what families faced during this time, or in the downfall of the monarchy during this time period, this is an entertaining way to learn about it. I especially enjoyed the brief bits about Prince Rupert?? I hope I'm writing down his name right. I lost my highlights. LOL He's a prince who is said to take his dog into battle. Oh, just read it.
Anyway, this novel, this heroine, is a prime example of showing strength by standing up for what you believe in and saving your family even at the loss of your own happiness.
There is no doubt that the author of this book really knows her period. Set in the English Civil War, Royalist Rebel offers an interesting insight into the events leading up to the death of Charles I, containing, among other things, a rather graphic description of the king’s execution.
In general, this period is a confusing period – it was for the people who lived it; it is for those of us who have developed an interest in it and want to know more. It was never as simple as a Parliamentarian rebellion against a despot king, and it is to Ms Seymour’s credit that she never simplifies the issues, attempting to paint as full a picture as possible of the events that transpired.
The book has as its central character Elizabeth Murray. When we first meet her, she is a precocious snob, who has a tendency to look down her well-shaped nose at anyone not being born titled and rich. Given that young Elizabeth’s own bloodlines are anything but noble – her father is William Murray, the king’s companion since youth, is but the son of a minister, now one of the king’s more favoured gentlemen and also quite the skilful spy – her disdain seems a bit misplaced. On the other hand, Elizabeth has been raised close to court, and has since an early age been quite aware of the fact that she is the daughter her parents hope to make a really good marriage for, Elizabeth’s sisters being sickly. Finally, it is important to keep in mind that Elizabeth Murray acts and thinks based on a 17th century perception of the world, a world in which every person had their place.
It is testament to Ms Seymour’s skill that this rather unlikeable protagonist sort of grows on you. Elizabeth is resourceful and courageous – at times she reminds me quite a lot of Scarlett O’Hara, what with her excessive love of her home, Ham House, which must be kept safe at all times. Like Scarlett, Elizabeth is willing to go to great lengths to keep family and home safe. Unlike Scarlett, she is neither as charming nor as conniving – which is to Elizabeth’s credit.
Due to Elizabeth’s status, the reader is taken along to participate in the rather dismal Christmas festivities of 1643, when Charles I held court in Oxford, and we are invited to come along when Elizabeth, several years later, visits the captive king at Hampton Court. Not only does Elizabeth rub shoulders with the king, she also has a number of meetings with Oliver Cromwell, who enjoys sparring with this intelligent young woman. Plus, Elizabeth has something Oliver really, really needs, a fact she uses to further the royalist cause on a number of occasions.
Ms Seymour paints engaging and interesting portraits of both Charles I and Oliver Cromwell – especially the latter, a man driven by passion and a sense of righteousness who becomes permanently sullied – even in his own mind, we are led to assume – by the execution of the deposed king. The upheaval and uncertainties of the times are presented with sufficient detail to allow the reader to grasp the context, and throughout Ms Seymour gives interesting insights into the more mundane aspects of life in the 17th century, be it the preparation of medicines, description of clothes and furnishings, or of food.
Writing about a real person is a challenge for any author, and Ms Seymour does an excellent job of balancing known facts with fiction. Elizabeth Murray grows into a determined woman, loyal unto death to the exiled king, Charles II. Further complication is offered through the depiction of Elizabeth’s relationship with her husband – whom she truly loves, if somewhat dispassionately – and Lord Lauderdale, the man who incenses her with his voice and his hands, with his eyes and his presence.
Ms Seymour has chosen to write in present tense throughout. This creates a sense of immediacy and adds pace, and while my personal preferences are for using the past tense so as to create a less abrupt style, Ms Seymour’s choice of tense works well in this narrative.
My main reservation is the rather unsatisfying ending. It’s as if Ms Seymour suddenly ran out of space, and just when things promise to become truly interesting as to Elizabeth’s feelings for lord Lauderdale and her commitment to work for the royal cause, Ms Seymour puts in the final full stop. Instead, a lengthy epilogue has been added to give the reader some closure, but for me this didn’t work at all. I’m not sure whether Ms Seymour is planning a second book – in which case the epilogue is something of a spoiler – or if she felt that she had reached a point when she was done with Elizabeth, but whatever the case, this novel deserved a more well-rounded ending.
To people fascinated by the 17th century, by the complex political situation of the time, by the advent of some attempts at true democracy, I warmly recommend Royalist Rebel. It will enhance your understanding of this turbulent period, seen through the eyes of a young woman who was there, who was opinionated and brave, who was willing to risk much to help her king and overlord. Such people are always fascinating, and Ms Seymour has managed to breathe quite some life into Elizabeth Murray and her times.
Anna Belfrage is the author of four published books, all part of The Graham Saga. Set in the 17th century, the books tell the story of Matthew Graham and his time-travelling wife, Alex Lind. Anna can be found on twitter, Facebook and on her website.