Next up on the blog is my interview with Personal Assistant extraordinaire, Catherine Brooks. Catherine wears many hats at MadeGlobal and I think I can speak for many of the authors when I say that we appreciate her very much! Catherine and I first met at the MadeGlobal author’s event in London last fall (September 2016) and we became fast friends – now our families even vacation together! We are so lucky to have her!
Photo of Catherine and I at fake ‘Hampton Court Palace’ at Disney World Epcot 2017
Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m not very exciting! I live in Leicestershire in the U.K. although I’m from the medieval town of Rochester, in Kent, originally. I have two sons, Oscar, 7, and Lucas who just turned a year old. Both are allergic to sleep, so in my spare time, I do zombie impressions. Clearly, I love all things Tudor! But I’m also very keen on medieval history and royal history in general. I am also a Pilates instructor and I teach at a number of places, including the prestigious Loughborough University, famed for its Olympian graduates.
How did you get connected with MadeGlobal Publishing?
The short version of this is that I followed MadeGlobal on Facebook, and saw their advertisement for staff. I applied, but it turns out I had already met the CEO and his wife, when I had done an interview for Sky News for the Tudor Society, regarding the re-interment of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral. Apparently, I had made a good impression!
The title of Personal Assistant really encompasses just about everything…You’re basically the glue binding us all together! What are your favourite duties?
Well I’m lucky that I get to work with some splendid people! I love the fact that I get to liaise with so many authors, including people I’d never get to speak to otherwise (if Dan Jones reads this – get in touch!). I also like getting to proofread articles, getting books sent to me, and occasionally being a bit bossy and going ‘humph’.
Members of the Tudor Society have been treated to some of your wonderful reporting at local Tudor themed events…which event has been your favourite?
Hard to say! I’ve not been to anywhere near as many as I’d like, but I’m working on it. I do love the Medieval Festival in Bosworth each year. Busy but relaxed, so much to see, do, and learn, the marking of the start of the Tudor Dynasty, and now a place where I can catch up with so many new friends.
Are there any events coming up that you are looking forward to?
Firstly, I have just got tickets for myself and the other half, David, to go to a Christmas event at Kenilworth Castle called ‘Enchanted Kenilworth Castle’. We went recently for a medieval event, which was great fun, but it’s not pushchair friendly at all and we had Lucas, around 9 months at the time, with us, so we didn’t get to explore the castle itself. This event is a rare opportunity to see the castle after dark, and it’s going to be a ‘winter fairytale of light, colour and sound’, all lit up by lanterns and fairy lights. Once you’re back in the grounds, there’s a traditional fairground, mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas shopping. I don’t even like mulled wine, but you have it because it’s Christmassy and freezing cold. We’re going on the 23rd of December, so really close to Christmas.
Secondly, on May 19th next year, the anniversary of the death of Anne Boleyn, I will be going down to the Tower of London. This day is part of the ‘Anne Boleyn Experience’, being run by the Tudor Society. I’ll be meeting the rest of the party there, spending some time with them, exploring the Tower, and doing some Facebook live, so do join me on the Tudor Society Facebook page.
If anyone wants to know about this event, go to britishhistorytours.com/the-anne-boleyn-experience
You’ve attended the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth a few times now, so I have to ask…does the rivalry continue into the present day?
I know why you’ve asked me that and it’s made me laugh! It really, really is. And until I attended the anniversary event for the first time, I didn’t know how much rivalry there really still is. Many Ricardians feel very angry and emotional about Richard’s defeat, and express genuine hatred for Henry Tudor, which they’re not shy of displaying. They really feel, too, that Richard’s bad reputation stems solely from Tudor propaganda (which probably did play a part), but ignores the issues that arose before the battle even took place. It’s a shame, because we are all interested in this history, and it would be nice to enjoy it together. It’s clearly widely known about. When I did the Sky News interview, they wanted to interview me alongside a member of the Richard III Society. She was clearly hoping for fight to break out. She was disappointed, which serves her right for being a journalist.
Last year, we had the pleasure of meeting for the first time AND exploring some amazing places: Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London…What was the one artifact you saw that really stuck with you?
I could visit such places time and again and see something different. So many things absorb me. I think there are some things we see reference to so often, that actually seeing them is a bit surreal and overwhelming. Although I don’t know a huge amount about portraiture, I’m drawn to portraits as they are the only way I can really put these figures in my mind’s eye. We can read their descriptions, but these vary and expressions of someone being pleasing to look at, for example, are subjective, relevant to the time, and sometimes just basically polite to avoid displeasure! We so desperately want to know these people. These paintings are the only link to them to remind us how very real they were. I find it hard to put into words. I was also blown away by the ‘Field of Cloth of Gold’. I could simply stare at it endlessly, trying to patch together all the details.
On my last two visits to Hampton Court, I remember more than anything standing amongst the paintings (waiting for Catherine Howard’s ghost to pop up!), and trying to make exact sense of the surge of feeling I had, that all these people had been there. THERE, right where I was standing. Henry, Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Catherine, Katherine, Wolsey, Cromwell, More, Cranmer (and many others). These people make up a big part of my life, but they are always distant, way before any living memory. Their lives are told as stories, but they are not stories. I wonder what they would make of us if they were to meet us there.
Who is your favorite Tudor?
Henry VII. I feel Henry Tudor gets a little forgotten. he’s trapped in history between two massive personalities, both of whom remain larger than life, and subject to endless scrutiny. I get the impression Henry is often perceived as boring and grouchy. Certainly miserly. I’m sure he could be all those things. But he is the founder of the Tudor dynasty. Without him over-coming all the odds, what would our history be? We’ll never know, of course, but it feels like it would be a little dull around the middle of the last millennium!
Henry brought peace: Peace that had been absent for so long. The crown stopped passing down through murder and fatal battles. The revival of the Star Chamber helped to control the nobles whose wealth had lent them too much power. The country became more prosperous (although not everyone appreciated how it was done!). He produced an heir and a spare (luckily) and made a good marriage (clearly a talent not passed to his son). In the times he lived, he was a good king. I will say though that I don’t appreciate his treatment of Catherine of Aragon after Arthur died.
Is there any one person (Tudor or non) that you’d love one of the MadeGlobal authors to write about?
Only one?! I can only pick one?! Are you offering? There are a number of ‘smaller characters’ that I feel we know little about, but I suppose there isn’t enough to write a whole biography or novel. I think perhaps Eustace Chapuys. The guy pops up left, right, and centre throughout Henry VIIIs reign, and he certainly had a lot to say about it! I wonder how many people got to observe as much as he did over the years? Now that I think about it, probably very few.
And finally, the question I ask everyone…If you could invite 5 people, living or dead, to a dinner party…Who would you invite?
- God – who doesn’t have questions?!
- Henry VIII
- A lie detector expert to sit with him
- A psychiatrist to sit with him
- The head buyer from Historic Royal Palaces, so I could get them in person and get them to stock our books!
Catherine works for Made Global Publishing and is also involved in the day to day running of the Tudor Society, liaising with speakers and contributors. She’s a wonder!
Catherine has a keen interest in Tudor history and represented the Tudor Society in an interview for Sky News about the re-interment of Richard III’s remains at Leicester.
Photo of Catherine and son, Lucas, at Bosworth Battlefield 2017