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Who was the other Katherine Champernowne? Who was Kat Ashley?

September 26, 2021














(Portrait sourced via Wikimedia commons from the collection of Lord Hastings  - thought to be Kat Champernowne/Ashley (Astley).)


It’s well known that a woman named Katherine Champernowne, later the wife of John Ashley (Astley), was governess for the future Queen Elizabeth I. Many people recognise her as ‘Kat’, although those closest to her may have actually called her Kate. I have therefore continued to use Kat, both here and in my novel A Woman of …

A sixteenth century Christmas

December 22, 2021


A sixteenth century Christmas

We know quite a lot about how the wealthy spent Christmas in the sixteenth century.  Surviving account books from Royal, noble and gentry households paint a picture of lavish feasts and costly entertainment.  For the less well off Christmas must have come as a welcome holiday, relief from the drudgery of life in the long, cold winter season.

On Christmas Eve men, women and children went out into the woodlands to cut greenery such as holly, ivy and mistletoe to decorate …

Farthingale Sleeves

November 09, 2021

I’ve always wondered how those huge sleeves worn by Queen Elizabeth 1 in all those fabulous paintings were created. Those sleeves were part of an elaborate ensemble designed to display the Queen’s magnificence, as seen here in the Armada portrait.





 In the later years of Elizabeth’s reign similar voluminous sleeves were an important part of court fashion. Ladies like Sir Walter Raleigh’s wife, Bess Throckmorton — pictured here in 1595 — wore these rather uncomfortable looking sleeves, which must surely …

Puffed and paned sleeves

September 10, 2021

Puffed and paned sleeves

Let’s delve into the coffer and take a look at another popular type of sixteenth century upper sleeve. 


I always think of puffed and paned sleeves as the “Snow White” look. You’ll find a lot of portraits from the 1560s with variations on this style, which both wealthy and less well-do women could adapt depending on the fabric they had available.








I wanted to recreate …

John Raleigh of Forde – a Newton Abbot connection

September 09, 2021

John Raleigh of Forde - a Newton Abbot connection

The girl she called granddaughter was peering at her, offering the apothecary’s potion. Kitty Hooker; such a pretty girl, so like her mother, Walter’s Mary. Katherine’s mind rambled over memories of the day Kitty wed John Hooker’s son Robert at the Church of St Mary in Wolborough. John Raleigh, grown wealthy from his shipping interests and his wife’s money, had put on quite a show for the wedding of a favourite niece.

An extract from A Woman of Noble Wit