As you probably know, I don’t write “straight” mystery. My main gig is romance. But I write historical romance, and the more research I do, the more I find things that make me wonder.
I write historicals based in the mid-eighteenth century, a time when the Jacobite cause was still important to politics.
Where there is politics, there is a lot of scheming and plotting. They seem to go together like cheese and crackers. It was also said that where there was a Jacobite, there was a plot. So how could I resist?
Now my “what if” includes a spoiler for the Emperors of London series, but nothing of the romances. Just the premise for the series that unfolds over the first three books. I'll mark it clearly for you, so you have a chance to opt out.
The Old Pretender, James Francis Stuart, was the son of King James II of Britain, the man who was exiled by the government. They never accepted the validity of that decision, even though it was ratified by law. But things could change. The Old Pretender was a schemer, through and through. He moved between France and Italy, and eventually made his home in Rome. That was where, in 1719, he married Maria Clementina Sobieska. Maria bore him two sons, Charles Edward (the “Old Pretender”) and Henry. Then, unable to stand his moodiness and bouts of melancholy, she entered a convent. She died in 1735.
By the 1750’s it was obvious that the Stuart succession, and the continuation of the Cause, was in peril. After Culloden, the Young Pretender had degenerated into a womanising drunk. His conversion to Protestantism in 1751 had absolutely no effect on the way the British looked at him. He was unmarried and childless. Henry had become a Cardinal in the Catholic church.
On the other side, the Hanoverians, who were kings of Britain, were prolific, but in the 1750’s, vulnerable. King George II was old, with increasingly failing health. His heir, (who he hated), Frederick, had died in 1751, leaving a son who would eventually become King George III. But he was a boy, and his mother was under the influence of the Earl of Bute, who was almost universally detested. The British monarchy was more vulnerable than it had been in years.
I'll put my links here for the first two books, if I may, then I'll carry on with the story. As I see it.
Rogue in Red Velvet - this one is free as a New Year's offer right now!
Temptation Has Green Eyes - this is out in February.
Here comes the spoiler, so look away if you want to read the series with no preconceptions.
What if the Old Pretender had married someone else before he married Maria Clementina? A woman he’d fallen in love with, someone who adored him, too. He’d put her aside for the brief duration of his official marriage, but his advisors had persuaded her to return to him after Maria Clementina left him. Maybe he carried on seeing her. She gave birth to at least ten children. I say “at least,” because in 1740 her house caught fire and she died, together with the vital documents of her marriage certificate and the detailed documentation of her children. Maria Rubio, the mother, was no fool. When her children were born, or shortly after, she found homes for them, with people she could trust, Jacobites and sometimes visitors to Rome who knew nothing of her background but were willing to take a child. She gave them a letter for the child, a copy of her marriage certificate and their birth certificates.
So what if that comes to light at the most inconvenient time? What if a powerful Jacobite family, the Dankworths, discovers the secret and decides to use it for their own ends? To gain power with the Stuarts and have a stake in the race for the throne?
End of spoiler.
I did the research. It’s possible. With the Stuart propensity for scheming, and both James’s wife and mistress having the same first name, it could have happened. Could is all the writer needs, and “could” led me to a whole series about a family, nicknamed the Emperors of London, loyal to the crown and members of the ruling elite, who seek out the children, hunting them before the Dankworths can find them and use them.
Lots of “what if”’s, but there are so many secrets that only come to light centuries later that could have, might have, happened.