by Kate Walker, author of A Question of Honor
One of my favourite things in my ‘memories’ cabinet is a silver spoon. It’s old, really rather worn – in fact in some places, it has been worn pretty thin – and it’s just a plain, undecorated, spoon. But there is one thing – or, rather, two things , that make it very special to me. The special things are the initials etched into the handle of this spoon.
There are just two of them say simply – C W
These could be my personal initials, or those of my grandmother – who was a Catherine too – but they’re not. In fact, if the family history is to be believed, they are much much older than that. These initials stand for the name Charles Wogan and he is someone who lived way back – in fact he was born about 1685. He was a long long ago member of the family from which my mother’s mother – my maternal grandmother – was descended.
“The Chevalier” (Knight) Charles Wogan was born in Rathcoffey. Is it possible that his heroic actions on the night of April 29th 1719 have given rise to the romantic fairytale tradition that for every fair princess shut up in a castle tower there comes a knight in shining armour ready to set her free so that she can marry the handsome prince of her dreams?
Charles Wogan was a lifelong supporter of the Jacobite cause, stating: “I shall always be ready to do what service I can for the cause I have ever much at heart”. Born in Ireland, Wogan moved to England in 1712 and soon after was involved in the 1715 Rising. He was captured and charged with treason but managed to escape before trial and fled to France. Meeting James Francis Edward Stuart, the Jacobite claimant to the throne, in Avignon, Wogan became friends with James and set about helping him select a suitable bride. They chose Maria Clementina Sobieska, daughter of John Sobieski, King of Poland but she was apprehended, however, on her way to marry the Prince in Bologna. She was held captive in Innsbruck in the Tyrol. Wogan arranged false passports with the Austrian Ambassador and along with a small group feigning to be a Count, Countess, the Countess’ brother (Wogan) and her maidservant, managed to gain access to the princess. Following a quick exchange of clothing between the princess and the maidservant, the party escaped in high winds and blinding snow through the Alpine passes into Austria.
The marriage to James took place and from it Charles Edward (the Young Pretender) was born in Rome in 1720. Wogan’s reputation for daring and enterprise spread throughout all Europe.
It’s rumoured that in fact Charles Wogan and Clementina fell in love on their journey but that his loyalty to his king meant that he didn’t press his own claim for marriage. It’s also rumoured that as a result of this, the Chevalier and his family are entitled to wear their hats in the presence of the king and to a pension of £10 a year. Unfortunately, like most of these things in English law, this was only passed down through the male side – which has now died out – and I come from the female line. Pity.
But I’ve always loved this story and I’ve read a couple of fictional versions of it (The Escape of The Princess by Jane Lane and Clementina by A E W Mason). Of course these books have to end rather sadly, with the Charles, being an honourable man, having to part from the Princess when he completed his mission and she had to marry the Prince. When I first learned of Charles and Clementina, I wanted them to have a happy ending together, but of course that wasn’t how it had worked out. So last March (on St Patrick’s Day of course!) I started thinking about my Irish family history and wondering how I could work that story to give it a happy ever after ending – while still making sure that Charles (or Karim as he became in my story) kept to his code of loyalty and honour as my ancestor had done.
That’s the story that’s behind my latest release – A Question of Honor (or Honour if you’re in the UK). My hero Karim is sent to fetch runaway princess Clementina and bring her back to her arranged marriage with Prince Nabil. He is given the job because he is a man of honour, a man who can be trusted to stick by that code of honour, no matter what his personal feelings might be. But that trust is severely tested when he finds that Clementina is a woman who stirs his senses more strongly than anyone he has ever met before. He is so strongly tempted, especially when Clementina herself makes it clear that the attraction he feels for her is mutual. But he has promised on his honor . . . So now he has to fight against her alluring appeal, the enticing glances, the temptation she offers – as well as the hunger she awakens in him, if he is to hold on to that honor.
I loved being able to give my family hero a happy ending!
Have you ever investigated the history of your family – on your mother’s or your father’s side? Do you have any interesting stories from the past of your family that you’d like to share? Or do you have any old, precious things that have been handed down through the years and that link you to your ancestors – like my very ordinary, but very special spoon? I’d love you to share – and I’ll offer a signed copy of A Question of Honor to someone who posts in the comments section.
Giveaway! Answer the above question in the comments for a change to win a signed copy of A Question of Honor. Open to residents of US and Canada, excluding Quebec. For full giveaway rules, click here. The giveaway closes June 26, 11:59 PM ET, and the winner will be selected by random draw on June 27.
About A Question of Honor:
It should have been easy. Karim al Khalifa, crown prince of Mazarkhad, had one task—retrieve rebellious princess Clementina Saveneski from her hideout in England and return her home to be wed…to another man.
His to find, or his to keep?
It is not for Karim to notice her alluring scent, those seductive curves, the enticing glances she sends his way. No, his family’s honor, and his own, require Clementina to be delivered—pure and untouched—to her unwanted bridegroom. And he must resist all temptation to keep her for himself!