Creating a New History for A Queen from the North by Erin McRae
A Queen from the North is in many ways a very different book than we first set out to write. Some of that is because of what the story demanded; some of that is the world we live in.
Racheline and I were already tinkering with a number of ideas related to royal romance when in the fall of 2015 I took a trip to England with my father. While we began our tour in London, our main goal was York, an ancient walled city and set amidst a stunning countryside.
I fell in love with York and with Yorkshire. The huddled half-timbered buildings of the Shambles; the surrounding walls where one can easily see medieval piled on Viking piled on Roman construction; the soaring Minster Abbey; the breathtaking natural beauty of the Dales. But what struck me most — being a history geek with a fascination for how cultures manifest and endure strife — was York’s history. York’s history is not just the history of the United Kingdom. It’s also the history of ancient Rome and the Vikings, and looming large over all of it was the five-hundred-year old struggle between York and Lancaster.
I was in a gift shop one afternoon when I overheard another patron ask the shop attendant about the jewelry on display. Necklaces bore the white rose of York, the red rose of Lancaster, or the blended red-and-white Tudor rose, as anyone’s allegiances or aesthetics might prefer.
“Oh, yes.” the attendant said of the Tudor rose. “We only sell that because we have to. We’re much more about the white rose here. And definitely not about the red.”
When we returned to our guest lodgings that night, I wrote Racheline: I know what our royals book should be about.
For all that this book was inspired by the past, it is not a reflection of real history. It contains a number of significant and deliberate departures from our world.
Some parts of the world will look familiar. Others will very much not. Prince Arthur’s father, King Henry XII, is descended in direct line from Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn — though our Anne still lost her head.
There are no Stuarts or Saxe-Coburgs or Windsors here. Scotland and Wales are joined with England to form the Unified Kingdom, but Ireland — from which my own family came to the U.S. — never suffered the depredations of English rule and has always been free and independent. They are ruled by their own High King who is twelve years old, but that story is for a later book in this series.
The Commonwealth still exists in our alternate universe, but the feelings of some of those countries — namely Canada — toward the monarchy are not necessarily what they are in our world.
Most critically, however, in this world the Wars of the Roses never truly ended. The Tudor unification attempted by Henry VIII fell apart after his death, and battles and political struggles between York and Lancaster persisted for centuries. The north — centered around York — and the south — centered around London — are locked in an eternal conflict that’s left York very much the loser.
This is also a world without Brexit. Several drafts of this book had already been completed when the UK voted to leave the European Union in June 2016. For all that this book contains the political machinations of the alternate universe we created, none of what we have written here is intended to be an allegory for the actual United Kingdom’s current political circumstances.
While I brought the strife between York and Lancaster to this book, Racheline brought witchcraft, insisting that the universe next door to us must always contain magic as we only fear it exists in ours.
A Queen from the North is, on some level, a story about alchemy — both on the page and in our process of writing it. We hope you enjoy your sojourn in the Unified Kingdom. We suggest you mind the birds.