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The Familiars

Set in the period around the early sixteen hundreds in Lancashire England, The Familiars is an Historical Fiction is based on true events. Many of the characters existed and lived their lives in Gawthorpe Hall. Their stories have been built up to show the political and religious era when King James was on the throne. These were turbulent times and the Politics which divided the Catholic church from the Church of England saw many people accused of witchcraft and hanged. In the Pendle Hill area twelve people were accused of Witchcraft and eleven of them hanged.

The story is told by the young mistress of Gawthorpe Hall, Fleetwood, who was born in 1595.  As with most of the upper classes, she was quite unaware of the politics and poverty that surrounded her. The young woman was happily married to Richard whose prospects of becoming a leading light in the King’s court were good. Sadly, she had suffered her third miscarriage and had intercepted a letter which mentioned that another pregnancy may cost both the life of mother and child.

This led Fleetwood to wonder why her husband had not mentioned the warning to her as she was again pregnant. The young woman loved riding in the woods, and it was here that she met Alice, a very poor village girl. When Fleetwood fell off her horse, Alice gave her herbs and bark to help save the baby. Gradually the pregnancy began to normalise, and from being sickly and pale, Fleetwood became healthy and strong.

As this relationship developed, a friend of Richard’s, who was important at the Court disclosed that he had discovered twelve witches and was bringing them in for trial. This man, Roger, was a warm and helpful mentor to Richard, and although retiring shortly, wanted to bring Justice to the area. Imagine Fleetwood’s horror when she discovered that Alice, who was now her Midwife, was one of those people.

The true story in the history books documents that twelve people were accused of witchcraft, but one, Alice Gray, was released. The rest were hanged. Fleetwood’s fight to save Alice is cleverly woven around the customs of the times. We read about the inmates of the Hall, their working days, and the clothing they wear. This is a fine immersion into the times, and attitudes in England during a reign of conflict and fear.

AuthorStacey Halls
DistributorAllen and Unwin
ReleasedFebruary 2019