Separating Fact from Fiction
By Tonya Ulynn Brown
Some portions of this post have been taken from the Separating Fact from Fiction section at the back of The Queen’s Almoner.
Although Thomas Broune is a fictional character, his and Mary’s story is woven around many of the events that happened in Mary’s life. The ill-fated life of Mary Stuart reveals that she was doomed from the very beginning of her return to Scotland. Mother and fatherless, and without a consort to consult, she was thrown into a role for which she had been ill-prepared. Raised to be the wife of a king, one must question whether she was truly prepared to single-handedly take up the reins of the monarch and rule with the grit required of a sixteenth century sovereign.
Mary was renowned for her kindness and her actions prove that she thought more with her heart than with her head. Ruling during a time of great upheaval of reformation within the church, she is the voiceless victim of many a greedy and ambitious man. I can accept that she may have been a weak ruler, but I refuse to accept that she was the conniving, conspiring harlot that many attribute her to be. From her half-brother Lord James Stewart, to her third and final husband (who shall remain nameless for the sake of not spoiling it for readers) and every man in between (and even those after her arrest in England which I do not mention in my story at all) she came in contact time and time again with smart, strong men that could have been of great assistance to her, had they chosen to do so.
Out of this belief was born the character of Thomas Broune. I was determined to give Mary someone who could guide her and love her through all her missteps in the courts of Scotland. I wanted someone who might shed light on why Mary may have made some of her decisions. I used the events that surrounded her life, then created conversations that might have led up to the actions that she took. Thomas was loyal and sensible and selfless. All the things that Mary needed in an advisor, but never had in reality. However, for the sake of true history, he ultimately could not save her. As much as I contemplated the idea of writing an alternate historical ending for Mary, in the end, I just couldn’t do it. Perhaps it was out of respect for her memory and what she endured. Who knows.
The term almoner is not heard too much in today’s vernacular. Almoners were responsible for the distribution of alms to the poor. They served in a role much like what a pastor would do today. Mary did indeed have an almoner. He was a part of her household and with her while she was under house arrest in England. He was a French Jesuit named De Préau (in some accounts he is called De Préan or even, Le Préau). In reality, De Préau was a Catholic clergyman, not Protestant, as I have made Thomas. And of course, there was never any romantic inclinations between Mary and her true almoner. He served as her confessor and spiritual advisor, guided her in prayers and gave other spiritual advice.
De Préau was mentioned in Mary’s last will and testament. She requested that he be allowed to continue to receive two stipends that he had previously enjoyed. She also asked that the king allow the almoner to continue in his service and be given some small allowance that he might pray for Mary’s soul for the rest of his life.
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Sometimes loyalty to the queen comes at a cost.
Thomas Broune is a Reformer and childhood friend of the young queen, Mary Stuart. When Mary embarks on a new life in her estranged homeland of Scotland, Thomas is there to greet her and offer his renewed friendship. But the long-time friends grow closer, and Thomas realizes his innocent friendship has grown into something more. Yet he is a man of the cloth. Mary is the queen of the Scots. Both of them have obligations of an overwhelming magnitude: he to his conscience and she to her throne.
When he must choose between loyalty to his queen or his quiet life away from her court, he finds that the choice comes at a high price. Driven by a sense of obligation to protect those he loves, and crippled by his inability to do so, Thomas must come to terms with the choices he has made and find a peace that will finally lay his failures to rest.
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Here’s a little bit more about the author-
Tonya Ulynn Brown was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, USA, but now calls southeastern Ohio home. She spent her younger years right out of college, living in Europe and teaching English as a second language. She attributes her time in Eastern Europe as being one of great personal growth, where her love for history, the classics, and all things European was born. Tonya holds a Master’s degree in Teaching and is now an elementary school teacher where she uses her love of history and reading to try to inspire younger generations to learn, explore and grow. Along with all the historical characters that she entertains in her head, she lives with her husband, two sons and a very naughty Springer Spaniel. Her mother has also joined their home, making for a cozy and complete little family.
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