I was fortunate to be invited by Victoria Bradley, the National Trust Collections Manager at Ham House to talk about the history of the Murray family. Victoria kindly let me loose on her bookshelf and filing cabinet, which I thought was very generous of her as we had never met before. Anyway, I found some very interesting snippets I didn't know about that happened at Ham during the Civil War, and how the Sequestration Committee hounded the Murrays.
A few things I found contradicted other sources, including Elizabeth Murray's official biography, which means I will have to re-write at least one chapter of my work in progress, possibly two. Courtesy of Victoria, I am now in possession of photocopies of some of these documents, one of them being an almost complete survey of the plants and trees in the grounds - the detail is fascinating. One interesting point is that events are marked not by actual date, but by 'Feast of St Michael the Archangel', and 'Lady Day'.
Most of the information held at Ham is centred around the time the house was refurbished by the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale in the 1670's. The novel I hope to write is about Elizabeth's youth, her experiences during the English Civil Wars and her marriage to Lionel Tollemache.
So my search is for earlier records, specifically about troop movements in the area of Richmond and Kingston between 1643-1650. Victoria also put me in touch with the warden of Petersham Church where the Murrays worshipped throughout their lives, and where most of them are buried in the family vault.
There's more digging to do, and one place I need to visit, apart from the church, is the National Archives Office at Kew. The fact that this is still quite a grey area of Elizabeth's life is not at all discouraging. The information I have gathered so far sets a structure for the novel, but its also gives me some leeway to write a fiction-based story rather than a documentary biography. A little romanticism won't hurt.