The final book in a trilogy about Scottish reformer John Knox, Marie Macpherson’s The Last Blast of the Trumpet is available now. Read on to find out more about the book, the author and how to order your copy.
From the back of the book
Conflict, Chaos and Corruption in Reformation Scotland
He wants to reform Scotland, but his enemies will stop at nothing to prevent him.
Scotland 1559: Fiery reformer John Knox returns to a Scotland on the brink of civil war. Victorious, he feels confident of his place leading the reform until the charismatic young widow, Mary Queen of Scots returns to claim her throne. She challenges his position and initiates a ferocious battle of wills as they strive to win the hearts and minds of the Scots. But the treachery and jealousy that surrounds them both as they make critical choices in their public and private lives…
Blog Tour Guest Post ~ The Last Blast of the Trumpet (Book 3 of the Knox Trilogy) By Marie Macpherson
Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US Scotland 1559: Fiery reformer John Knox returns to a Scotland on the brink of civil war. Victorious, he feels confident of his place leading the reform until the charismatic young widow, Mary Queen of Scots returns to claim her throne. She challenges his position and initiates a ferocious battle of wills as they strive to win the hearts and minds of the Scots. But the treachery and jealousy that surrounds them both as they make critical choices in their public and private lives has dangerous consequences that neither of them can imagine.
The Influence of John Knox The louring figure of John Knox has cast a long, deep shadow over Scottish history and, love him or loathe him, you cannot deny his influence not only on our culture and psyche but also on the development of English Puritanism and the establishment of Presbyterianism around the world. To the great Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle, Knox was ‘the one Scotsman to whom the whole world owes a debt’ and who takes his rightful place alongside the leading reformers, Calvin, Beza and Farel on the Reformation Wall in Geneva.
For many, however, Knox is a prophet without honour in his own land. Carlyle’s fulsome praise was certainly not echoed by the Scottish bard, Robert Burns, a frequent victim of the cutty stool, a punishment for fornication. In Holy Willie’s Prayer he mocks the ‘unco guid’ the pious, self-righteous and dour Elect created by the doctrine of predestination. Knox is blamed for the stringent, puritanical restrictions that grasped Scotland in a tight iron grip for centuries and the caricature of the long-bearded, black-robed, Old Testament prophet spouting fire and brimstone endures. It is difficult nowadays to imagine but the preachers was a charismatic performer whose sermons drew huge congregations. Catholic congregations who’d been used to standing behind a rood screen at mass, cut off from priests chanting in Latin, were enthralled to hear scripture being expounded in their own language. Nevertheless, Knox’s extremism has become an embarrassment to his own Church of Scotland and his achievements have been overshadowed by his polemical pamphlet, The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, which has marked him out as a rampant misogynist and violent revolutionary. Contrary to popular opinion, Knox did not hate women. Far from it. He was quite the ladies’ man as his two young wives and flock of female admirers and correspondents would testify. Nonetheless, he believed that because women were ‘the weaker vessel’ they were unsuited for any form of public office, let alone that of supreme monarch. He was appalled and bewildered by the prevailing situation when so many women were ruling the roost: Mary Tudor in England, Mary of Guise in Scotland, as regent for her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, and Catherine de Medici, regent in France. This was not only monstrous, against the laws of nature, but against divine law. Taking his inspiration from Paul in Timothy 2:12, he famously wrote: To promote a woman to bear rule, superioritie, dominion or empire above any realme, nation, or citie, is repugnant to nature. Knox was not a lone wolf crying out in the wilderness, however. Most of his male contemporaries, and indeed the law, deemed women to be second-class citizens. Meanwhile in various Protestant countries subjects were beginning to question the validity of despotic rulers. In 1550, the authors of the Apology of Magdeburg urged its citizens to take up arms against a tyrannical magistrate. In 1556 an exiled English bishop, John Ponet, argued that tyrants could be deposed by common authority, a sentiment shared by Knox’s colleague, Christopher Goodman, as a popular rhyme of the time recorded: No Queen in her kingdom can or ought to sit fastIf Knox or Goodman’s books blow any true blast.But no one was as vehement and violent as Knox who clamoured for the Catholic female rulers not only to be brought down but executed. This alarmed many including John Aylmer who accused Knox of overstepping the mark and ‘cracking the dutie of obedience’ to a monarch. For this rebuttal Queen Elizabeth rewarded Aylmer with the bishopric of London and banned Knox from ever setting foot on English soil. Knox in EnglandIt’s often forgotten that Knox once had a promising career in the English church. Released after a 19-month stint in the galleys, the heretic was outlawed in his own country but welcomed in England where he served as pastor in Berwick-upon-Tweed and Newcastle. When the young King Edward VI invited the charismatic preacher to London as one of his chaplains, Knox’s career in England seemed assured. However, his uncompromising Calvinist beliefs startled the moderate Anglican bishops who sought to dilute them by offering him plum jobs–vicar of All Hallows in London and the bishopric of Rochester–if he followed their liturgy. Knox who abhorred idolatry in all its forms, refused to bend the knee at communion and wear episcopal vestments. No compromise was the motto of God’s chosen messenger.
Knox in GenevaEdward’s premature death in 1563, followed by the succession of Mary Tudor, was a great blow for Knox. Chased out of England he sought refuge in Geneva, confident that Calvin would back his call to depose the ‘wicked Jezebel’ who was persecuting Protestants. When Calvin advised obedience and passive resistance, Knox approached other leading reformers in Switzerland and Germany but failed to drum up support. Sensing the fiery Scot was more Calvinist than he was, Calvin sent him as trouble-shooter to Frankfurt where Canon Cox, leader of the English exiles, was sneaking dregs of popery into the English rite. Knox failed to convert Cox who hounded the zealot and his radical followers out of Frankfurt. Though Knox didn’t realise it at the time, the Church of England’s door had been slammed firmly behind him. Angry and frustrated, Knox picked up his pen to write The First Blast of the Trumpet against the cursed Jezebel of England. Conscious of the criticism it would provoke he published his vehement attack anonymously. A furious Calvin banned its publication in Geneva and wrote to William Cecil, that the ‘thoughtless arrogance of one individual’ had endangered the lives of the English exiles.
For all his legendary gift of prophecy, Knox didn’t foresee Mary Tudor’s demise in November 1558, nor her succession by another woman. At least Elizabeth was a Protestant, Knox conceded, and promised his support if she acknowledged that God had allowed her to reign as a special case to restore the true Protestant faith. This arrogance combined with his misogynistic comments greatly offended the young queen who refused his request to return to England. I fear that my First Blast hath blown from me all my friends in England, Knox complained. It must have stuck in his craw to hear that his bitter rival, Canon Cox had officiated at Elizabeth’s coronation. It needed no gift of prophecy to see that ‘bells and smells’ were turning the queen’s head.His austere Calvinist Presbyterianism may not have been to Elizabeth’s taste, but Knox still exerted influence amongst rebels in the Anglican church who, sensing ‘creeping papistry’, were unwilling to submit to her seemingly trivial demands. Those who refused to use Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer or wear vestments were mockingly called ‘Puritans’ or ‘precisians’ and went on to form a dissident arm of the Church of England. Knox in Scotland Outlawed in England, Knox returned to his homeland to lead the Lords of the Congregation in deposing the Catholic regent Mary of Guise and establishing Protestantism as the official religion of Scotland. With the regent’s sudden death, victory seemed assured and, in 1560, Knox set about producing The First Book of Discipline, his manifesto for a Christian commonwealth with education for all children, more universities, and a system of poor relief. However, because the nobility refused to hand over the rich benefices they’d purloined from the Roman Catholic Church, his visionary, democratic ideas were never put into practice during his lifetime.
Statue of Knox the teacher, outside Knox Academy by John Denham, Wikipedia The Protestant honeymoon period was cut short with the arrival of the charismatic young widow, Mary Queen of Scots, to claim her throne. And so began a bitter battle of wills between the minister and the monarch for the hearts and minds of the Scots. Many of the lords, embarrassed by his constant attacks on Mary, dropped their support for Knox and baulked at the idea of deposing their anointed queen. Nor did they dare execute Knox for his treacherous sermons for fear of making a martyr of him.
Knox reproving Mary Queen of Scots by David Wilkie In the end it was not the revolutionary democrat Knox but her sister queen, Elizabeth Tudor, who signed Mary’s death warrant, on the advice of her powerful minister. By removing this threat to his mistress’s throne, William Cecil had one of his wishes granted and then in 1603 another one. The accession of James VI of Scots as James I of England signalled the Union of Crowns under a Protestant monarch, laying the foundation for the Union of Parliaments and the establishment of the United Kingdom in 1707. This dramatic change in the troubled relationship between the auld enemies, England and Scotland, it could be argued, was in no small measure a result of John Knox. Meanwhile, after a tumultuous life, Knox died peacefully in his bed and was buried in the churchyard outside St Giles Cathedral Edinburgh where lot No. 23 in the car park marks the spot. Ironically, Knox the great iconoclast who ordered the destruction of graven images, is forever set in stone. How long in this iconoclastic age will the statue in New College depicting the preacher in full flow remain standing?
Fictional Saga 150os / Mary Tudor Scotland (John Knox Trilogy Book 3)
“Scotland 1559: Fiery reformer John Knox returns to a Scotland on the brink of civil war. Victorious, he feels confident of his place leading the reform until the charismatic young widow, Mary Queen of Scots returns to claim her throne. She challenges his position and initiates a ferocious battle of wills as they strive to win the hearts and minds of the Scots. But the treachery and jealousy that surrounds them both as they make critical choices in their public and private lives has dangerous consequence that neither of them can imagine.” I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series – and was so hoping that the final conclusion would not let the side down. I need not have worried; if anything, Book Three even surpasses the other two. John Knox is a character you either like or loathe, depending on your view of his determination, passion and conviction. Here is a man of a complex nature, living in a complex period with complex motivations. But then, this entire period of Scottish history was complex – the religious reformation, the political situation – all wrapped up in the diversity of support (or lack of it) for Mary, Queen of Scots. Ms Macpherson skilfully juggles all these complexities of the political situations with apparent ease. The passionate views and goals of her characters come over as real, flesh-and-blood people, with her writing as passionate as their personal convictions. The author immerses the reader into the upheaval of the period as if we are there, watching on the sidelines as the political and religious battles are set into action by some of the most well known and controversial people who were a part of Scottish history. A superb ending to an equally as superb trilogy. This is one of those series about history that should be compulsory reading for upper-grade students at school – or anyone interested in Tudor-period history, come to that. The books are stand alone – but do start at the beginning, it is well worth it!
Very highly recommended Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
Guest Post : The Inspiration Behind My Novel by Marie Macpherson, Author of The Last Blast of theTrumpet
Publication Date: 24 August 2020 Publisher: Penmore Press Print Length: 409 Pages Series: Book 3 of the Knox Trilogy Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical Fiction
Conflict, Chaos and Corruption in Reformation Scotland.
He wants to reform Scotland, but his enemies will stop at nothing to prevent him.
Scotland 1559: Fiery reformer John Knox returns to a Scotland on the brink of civil war. Victorious, he feels confident of his place leading the reform until the charismatic young widow, Mary Queen of Scots returns to claim her throne. She challenges his position and initiates a ferocious battle of wills as they strive to win the hearts and minds of the Scots. But the treachery and jealousy that surrounds them both as they make critical choices in their public and private lives has dangerous consequences that neither of them can imagine.
In this final instalment of the trilogy of the fiery reformer John Knox, Macpherson tells the story of a man and a queen at one of the most critical phases of Scottish history.
The Inspiration Behind The Last Blast of the trumpet
Conflict, Chaos and Corruption in Reformation Scotland
When an irresistible force such as you Meets an old immovable object like me You can bet just as sure as you live Something’s gotta give …
As I was writing The Last Blast of the Trumpet the lines from this song kept birling round my brain. The last part of the Knox trilogy features a clash of indomitable wills between the fiery Protestant minister, John Knox, and the legendary Catholic monarch, Mary, Queen of Scots, at a crucial point in Scottish history.
The First Blast of the Trumpet and The Second Blast of the Trumpet followed Knox from his humble birth in Haddington, East Lothian, and education as a Roman Catholic priest to his imprisonment in the French galleys and eventual exile in England and Geneva, Switzerland. There he was prompted to write his notorious tract The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. In this diatribe directed against the three Marys–Mary Tudor in England, Marie de Guise in Scotland and Mary, Queen of Scots–he voiced his view that it was against both natural and divine law for women to hold the reins of power. Though in tune with most of his male contemporaries, Knox was criticised for bawling it more stridently and clamouring for the female sovereigns to be deposed. Despite his making an exception for her, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth was not amused and refused him entry back into England.
The Last Blast of the Trumpet opens with his dramatic return to Scotland in May 1559. Summoned by the Lords of the Congregation to lead the Protestant Reformation, he first has to contend with the doughty regent, Mary’s French Catholic mother, Marie de Guise. A civil war breaks out, ended only by the regent’s death. Knox’s victory seems assured, but fate deals him a cruel blow with another death, that of Mary’s husband, King François. Now that she is no longer Queen of France, one of the most powerful nations in Europe, Scotland awaits her next step.
On 19 August 1561, Mary Stewart lands at the port of Leith. The 18-year-old widow queen has come to claim her crown, her country and restore the Catholic faith to her people. Brought up in the comfort of the French court with a strong sense of entitlement the pampered princess expects to be welcomed and lauded as her nation’s sovereign. But she has underestimated the power of the equally charismatic preacher Knox.
Waiting in his lair in the High Street, the middle-aged radical cleric furrows his black eyebrows and strokes his grey beard, wondering why God has allowed this to happen. The former priest turned preacher who endured 19 months as a galley slave being whipped and tortured for his faith is unwilling to hand over power on a plate to this Salomé, this idolatrous Jezebel, a symbol of everything he despises. The prophet of doom interprets Mary’s arrival, shrouded in a dense haar a sour North Sea fog, as a sign of God’s displeasure.
‘The very face of heaven … did manifestly speak what comfort was brought unto this country with her, to wit; sorrow, dolour, darkness and all impiety.’
The battle of wills has commenced. Novels, dramas and films have explored the fascinating relationship of the two queens, Elizabeth Tudor of England, and Mary Stewart of Scotland, and many have engineered a meeting between the cousins who never actually met. However, few have explored the meetings that did take place, a series of at least five equally titanic clashes, between Mary and her bête noir, Knox. The French-raised Roman Catholic queen and the Calvinist reformer make brilliant antagonists. Mary and her retinue of ladies, with their youthful joie de vivre and feminine qualities stand in stark contrast to the puritanical Knox with his masculine values of restraint and austerity.
Yet both believe that God is on their side: Mary as an anointed queen and Knox as God’s chosen messenger. Both believe themselves beloved by their people. Both have been exiled and have returned home to stake their claim, but only one can win the hearts and minds of the Scots.
Their interviews were recorded by Knox–no doubt to his advantage–but what I found surprising was that the teenaged Mary turns out to be more than a match for the wizened old debater Knox who seemed surprised, if not impressed, by her ability to hold her own against him. Historians have questioned why the queen, having garnered the support of her lords, led by her conniving half-brother, James, didn’t just swat the uncrowned leader away like a pesky fly or even execute him for his treacherous. While Mary dare not punish him for fear of making him a martyr, she could not let his flagrant condemnation of her go unchallenged. She was curious to meet him, not only to work her legendary charm to find a chink in her sworn away enemy’s armour of righteousness but to show him that she was not a frail, empty-headed lass, who had been well-trained in the art of debate by her de Guise uncle a Catholic cardinal. How I’d love to have been a fly on the wall as the monarch and the minister indulged in what Scottish poets of the time called a flyting – a kind of slanging match. In their battle of wits, sometimes for hours on end, I suspect there was a strong frisson between the two, otherwise why did Mary even initiate them or bring them to an abrupt close?
Polar opposites in almost every way; in age, gender, status and temperament as well as religion and destiny has set them at loggerheads, yet they had things in common. Both had tremendous charisma. Nowadays it might be difficult to discard the image of the bible-thumping cartoon Calvinist and rampant misogynist, but Knox was attracted to, and loved, by women. He was a compelling preacher, much like the American evangelist of Scots-Irish descent, Billy Graham, and folk flocked to hear his sermons. Knox turns out to be a family man – husband of two wives, father of five children, a son-in-law – and attracted a large flock of female admirers.
In their personal lives both had suffered the loss of a spouse, and both were seeking a soulmate. Both were criticised for their choice of partner: Mary for secretly marrying the spoilt, spineless Darnley and Knox for taking as his second wife yet another 17-year-old bride. When Mary found out that the 50-year-old preacher had married her distant cousin, Margaret Stewart of Ochiltree, she was furious and stormeth wonderfully. Not only had they wed without her permission, but the low-born cleric was now a member of the noble Stewart clan.
And there is one more fatal tie of kindred that will bind them. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, is not only Knox’s liege lord but a kinsman, though neither is aware of just how close they are. Both minister and monarch are unprepared for the bear-pit of the Scottish court where simmering jealousy, hate and fierce rivalry are about to erupt into murder and assassination, exile and execution. In a parallel narrative, the novel continues to explore the part that Prioress Elisabeth Hepburn plays in both the lives of her godson, Knox and he great-nephew, Bothwell, with unintended but dangerous consequences.
Set during one of the most turbulent periods in Scottish history, The Last Blast of the Trumpet explores the tangled web of relationships–blood feuds, sibling rivalry, doomed marriages and scandalous love affairs–when religious, political and personal passions run high.
‘Macpherson has done for Knox what Hilary Mantel did for Cromwell.’ Scottish Field
‘This richly realized portrait of a complex man in extraordinary times is historical fiction at its finest.’ Linda Porter, author of Crown of Thistles; Katherine the Queen, Royal Renegades; Mistresses: Sex and Scandal at the Court of Charles II
‘Marie Macpherson has once again given us a cavalcade of flesh and blood characters living the early days of the Scottish Reformation in a complex tale told with economy and wit.’ S.G. MacLean, author of The Seeker Series and Alexander Seaton mysteries
About the Author
Scottish writer Marie Macpherson grew up in Musselburgh on the site of the Battle of Pinkie and within sight of Fa’side Castle where tales and legends haunted her imagination. She left the Honest Toun to study Russian at Strathclyde University and spent a year in the former Soviet Union to research her PhD thesis on the 19th century Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov, said to be descended from the Scottish poet and seer, Thomas the Rhymer. Though travelled widely, teaching languages and literature from Madrid to Moscow, she has never lost her enthusiasm for the rich history and culture of her native Scotland.
Writing historical fiction combines her academic’s love of research with a passion for storytelling. Exploring the personal relationships and often hidden motivations of historical characters drives her curiosity.
The Knox Trilogy is a fictional biography of the fiery reformer, John Knox, set during the 16th century Scottish Reformation. Prizes and awards include the Martha Hamilton Prize for Creative Writing from Edinburgh University and Writer of the Year 2011 awarded by Tyne & Esk Writers. She is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association (HWA), the Historical Novel Society (HNS) and the Society of Authors (SoA).