My Head Start With History

Historical novelist Katie Grant delves into her family history for inspiration.

On a little table in the drawing room of my parents’ home just outside Burnley in Lancashire is a small, very ancient leather fame. In this frame is enclosed a lock of hair and the legend reads ‘my cousin Franck Towneley’s haire, who suffered for his prince August 10th, 1746’. The cousin was Colonel Francis Towneley, born in 1708, the fifth son of Charles Towneley of Towneley, an old Catholic recusant family ‘of more than usual peversity’ according to Lord Burghley, Lord Treasurer to Elizabeth I. Francis, or Uncle Frank as we always called him, whose brother John had been a tutor of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s at the French court of Louis XV, was my most romantic ancestor and it was his life, but, more particularly, his death, that taught me from an early age that history was not only exotic and thrilling but also full of gruesome details useful for frightening visitors my six siblings and I particularly disliked.

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