The Wicked Lady
My latest novella (available here for preorder at just 99c), is based on a real rumour - that of Katherine Ferrers, also known as The Wicked Lady. The Regency reunion novella appears in Kisses & Winter Wishes, published by The New Romance Cafe. I am excited and proud to announce my first release with this wonderful team.
The Wicked Lady:
Those of you who follow my blog know I've been researching highwaymen, but as Miss Ferrers was neither a man, nor of the Regency-era, you might wonder why I took her as inspiration at all. Let's see if I can weave this tale of an unlikely heroine, and her determination to take back her power - in the 1600s, no less.
Miss Ferrers was the daughter of a favoured noble in the Tudor court, much vaunted by Henry VIII and Edward VI. It was Edward who granted the Ferrers family extensive properties in Hertfordshire, including Bayford, Ponsbourne, Agnells, the family mansion at Flamstead, and the manor house of Markyate Cell at Markyate - the property that has become the subject of such wild rumours. By 1640 both Katherine's parents were dead and she became sole heir to her grandfather's considerable estates, making her a noble, titled, and very wealthy six year old.
The Ferrers family were protestants, and fervent royalists. During the Civil War much of the Ferrers family wealth was sequestered by an act of Parliament. Katherine's mother's second husband arranged for his wealthy step daughter to wed his own nephew as soon as possible. At age 13 she did just that (her new husband was 16 at this time). This made over all her land and tenancies to her husband who was - er, shall we say, bad with money? He began selling off her estates as soon as he could.
He also managed to involve himself in political affairs and get himself arrested, so our Lady Katherine soon found herself in dire financial straits. The rumour is that she donned male clothing and took to highway robbery - hence her nickname 'The Wicked Lady'. A pub with this name stands in Herefordshire today, in honour of Lady Katherine Ferrers. She would not have been the first royalist to do this in order to survive the civil war, but she is the only known noblewoman turned robber, of which there's any record.
Legend, or Truth?
It's certain that Katherine Ferrers existed, and that she came from a noble family. It's also certain that her husband squandered her dowry and that she was left more or less destitute. There is however, no absolute proof that our lady turned to robbery to supplement her family's waning fortunes.
She died young - only 26 years old. Official records say she died in childbed, but her husband was imprisoned at the time she ought to have conceived, so either she had a lover, or we can choose to believe the persistent rumour that she was shot as a highwayman on Nomansland Common. In this version, she dies of her wounds while trying to ride back to a secret staircase entry at Markyate Cell. This tale has Katherine's body supposedly discovered wearing men's clothing and her servants recovering it and carrying her home to be buried.
The legend of this highwaywoman received new life in the 1800s (a Regency-esque connection at last, you see?). Excavations at Markygate Cell revealed a false wall, hiding a secret room and a hidden stair - all intriguing developments, I think you'll agree. Interestingly, this infamous haunt of The Wicked Lady was available for sale in February 2021 for a cool 9.5 million pounds. It's a nine bedroom manor house and while it was rebuilt after a fire in 1908, the house retains many of its original features from the 1200s.
Your Money or Your Love:
Stand & Deliver is my Winter reunion novella based on the rumour of Lady Katherine Ferrers.
Elliot Brock is devastated when the woman he loves marries his best friend, who happens to be the son of an earl. When the two men are sent to war in 1812, only Elliot survives but by the time he returns to England the countess is courting more than scandal. She’s risking her neck!
To find a way round the family trustee with nefarious designs, Countess Olivia Essex takes on the persona of Black Peter, a notorious highwayman. With her stalwart mama as accomplice, she keeps the estate running – barely.
When Colonel Brock finally returns, she’s both relieved and alarmed. This man is too clever not to guess what’s going on – and too attractive not to kiss. More than kiss… She’d better take his purse and nothing else, right? Ummm...