Occupation: Gentlewoman of England
I was born Rosamond Appleton, the illegitimate child of a wayward knight. His widow took on the duties of a foster mother. She raised and educated me—in a manner far beyond what most young gentlewomen are taught—and spoiled me as if I were her own. Jaffrey is my married name. At sixteen, I eloped with the steward’s son to avoid being married off by my birth mother to an annoying sprig of the nobility.
In the usual way of things I live in a pleasant house in Bermondsey, just outside of London, with my faithful tiring maid, Melka, and several other well-trained servants. Since, by various machinations, I have gained control of my own fortune, I answer to no one. I have the leisure to sleep late, break my fast with bread and beer when I do rise, and spend the rest of my day reading, attending plays performed in the inn yard of the nearby Horse’s Head Inn, or visiting the shops in the Royal Exchange. I dine at eleven and sup at five, as is the custom among the gentry in Queen Elizabeth’s England. In the evenings, I amuse myself with card games or, if I can find a worthwhile partner, by playing chess. I have never been all that fond of music or dancing, or particularly skilled at performing either. My singing voice leaves much to be desired and my lute-playing . . . let us just say that everyone is happier if I do not attempt to strum the strings.
My husband Rob, from whom I am currently estranged, is supposed to be studying at Cambridge. Instead, as I have only just learned, he has gone off adventuring under the auspices of the Muscovy Company. Muscovy, also known as Russia, is not a particularly safe place for foreigners and it is because Rob may be in danger there that my pleasant routine recently underwent a sea change.
With great reluctance, I agreed to be installed in a noblewoman’s household as a waiting gentlewoman. My assignment is to report to an agent I feel certain is employed by Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen’s spy master, any conversation I overhear, particularly any that are conducted in the Russian language. I have a working knowledge of that tongue, thanks to one of my foster mother’s friends—the same friend who made the arrangements for Rob to travel to Muscovy. The noblewoman in question, Lady Mary Hastings, has been proposed as a bride for Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
Subservience does not come easily to me. I am the one who has always been the pampered pet. I do not like being at Lady Mary’s beck and call, nor do I not care for rising at first cockcrow. Most of my time is spent in dull pursuits. Chief among them are various sorts of needlework. I have no skill at sewing, whether it be simple stitching or complicated embroidery. Such tasks are made even more tedious because they are accompanied by readings from “improving” books.
I would much prefer to hear the Hastings chaplain read from a romance—a tale of King Arthur and his knights, or mayhap a story about Robin Hood and his Merry Men—but any such suggestion would be met with disapproval. You see, I have been sent to spy on a Puritan household. Anything that amuses or entertains is frowned upon.
There is one saving grace. We will soon visit the queen’s wardrobe of robes in preparation for spending Yuletide at Queen Elizabeth’s court. Lady Mary has been given permission to pick out one of the queen’s gowns for her own use. While she tries on clothing, I plan to slip away to meet my contact and make my report.
What could possibly go wrong?
You can read more about Rosamond in Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe, the first book in the new “Mistress Jaffrey” historical mystery series, published by Severn House.
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About the author
Kathy Lynn Emerson is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha for mystery nonfiction for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries as Kaitlyn Dunnett (Ho-Ho-Homicide, 2014) and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries as Kathy Lynn Emerson. Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe, available in hardcover in March, is the first book in this series and is a spin-off from her earlier Face Down Mysteries. It is set in England in 1582-3. For more information, visit KathyLynnEmerson.com.