Friday, 08 June 2018 Interview with The Queen and the Heretic author Derek Wilson

Derek Wilson is a popular historian and renowned author with over fifty published books. He has also written and presented numerous television and radio programmes.

Lion Books is thrilled to publish Derek's brilliant new history book, The Queen and the Heretic!

The Queen and the Heretic has recievied lavish praise from many celebrated historians, like Philippa Gregory quoted below.

Here Derek chats with us about his new book and why he felt the story of two remarkable women, Catherine Parr and Anne Askew, needed to be told.

Can you tell us what The Queen and the Heretic is about?

Where did you first get the idea for this story and how did that idea evolve into The Queen and the Heretic?

The idea first started with a successful entry for the Archbishop Cranmer Prize for graduates, soon after I left Cambridge University. At that time, I was interested in discovering how 'heresy' climbed the social ladder from artisan Lollardy to a more sophisticated Protestantism involving top people. Regional religious studies were just getting off the ground (e.g. A.G. Dickens Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York).

Since those days, I've written widely about the Reformation but Anne Askew has seldom been far from my thoughts. In her story, two factors merge — an important socio-historical movement and a dramatic, moving personal tragedy. Gradually, I came to realise that there was another, parallel saga to be written about Catherine Parr, the conventionally unglamorous last wife of Henry VIII. She was the most religiously committed of the Henrician queens. This demonstrated the progress of proto-Reformation to the very top rungs of the social ladder. Catherine's story also was not without high drama. Merging the two biographies is a legitimate bringing together of academic and 'pop' history. And it puts religious conviction where it belongs, slap bang in the centre of Tudor life.

Finally, I realised that the story could largely be told in the words of Catherine and Anne themselves, because both of them wrote about their personal experiences and their deepest beliefs. That makes them unique because at this time women did not publish books.

How much research did you have to do before writing this book? Did you visit any of the locations mentioned in the book or was it mostly book research?

Over the years, I've visited most of the places mentioned in the book. I also enjoyed delving into national, regional and diocesan archives. I have amassed a considerable, and ever growing, personal library and enjoy discussing issues with other historians of the period.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing The Queen and the Heretic?

The vital importance of women in the religious, intellectual and social history of the 16th century. It simply isn't true to say that this was a man's world. Apart from the queens, regents and consorts who ruled in Europe, and apart from the growing number of scholars, writers, poets, preachers and patrons of reformers like Mrs Luther and Her Sisters, there were courageous women who 'went the whole hog' in their religious commitment. It wasn't just that they were often braver than their menfolk. They brought something essentially feminine to their understanding of and emotional attachment to their faith.

What do you enjoy most about writing history books?

I love stories. I believe honest historians have something valuable, nay, vital, to contribute to our understanding of ourselves. But the honest answer is, 'I don't know'. Writing is not something I do. it's something I am. I can't not write.

Enjoy reading The Queen and the Heretic! Buy your copy here.

Want to find out more about Derek Wilson? Check out his wonderful website here.