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Antonia Fraser - Author

About the Author

Antonia Fraser is the author of many widely acclaimed historical works including the biographies, CROMWELL: OUR CHIEF OF MEN, KING CHARLES II and THE GUNPOWDER PLOT (CWA Non-Fiction Gold Dagger; St Louis Literary Award). She has written five highly praised books which focus on women in history, THE WEAKER VESSEL: WOMEN'S LOT IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND (Wolfson Award for History, 1984), THE WARRIOR QUEENS: BOADICEA¿S CHARIOT, THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII, MARIE ANTOINETTE: THE JOURNEY (Franco-British Literary Prize 2001), which was made into a film by Sofia Coppola in 2006 and now most recently LOVE AND LOUIS XIV: THE WOMEN IN THE LIFE OF THE SUN KING. Antonia Fraser was made CBE in 1999, and awarded the Norton Medlicott Medal by the Historical Association in 2000. She lives in London and is currently working on a biography of Queen Elizabeth I. She was married to Harold Pinter who died on Christmas Eve 2008 and has eighteen grandchildren.

 

Below is a Q&A with this author.

 

What's the first book you remember reading?
Our Island Story by H. E. Marshall, when I was aged four and a half. I still have the copy, rebound after much use.

Where do you live? And why?
I have lived in the same house in Campden Hill Square since 1959; my six children were brought up here (two of them actually born in the house). I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Where do you write?
In the children's old nursery at the top of the house, rechristened the Eyrie. I couldn't wait to move in when they moved out as it has magnificent views.

Typewriter, word processor or pen?
Ancient electric typewriter (circa 1970) to which I am devoted.

Where were you born and raised?
Although I was born in Sussex Gate, Bayswater (now Ryadh House, I see), I was brought up in Oxford where my father taught at the University.

Did you enjoy school? What is your most vivid memory of your school years?
I loved two out of my three schools, the Dragon School, Oxford, and St Mary's Convent, Ascot, which was the setting for the first Jemima Shore mystery, Quiet as a Nun.

Did you always want to be an author? If not, what did you originally want to be and when and why did you change your mind?
I didn't want to be an author. I just was an author since before memory.

What were the first pieces of writing that you produced? e.g. short stories, school magazine etc. I wrote mock Shakespearean tragedies in verse: I like to think I've got better.

What jobs did you have before you started writing?
I only had one job: working for Weidenfeld & Nicolson and they've published all my non-fiction ever since.

If your house were burning down, what would you save?
My black and white cat Placido – except he'd probably get out first.

Have any of your books been televised or made into films? Who by and when were they screened? The Jemima Shore crime stories were made into two TV series, Quiet as a Nun, starring Maria Aitken, and Jemima Shore Investigates, starring Patricia Hodge. Marie Antoinette has recently been filmed by Sofia Coppola.

What is a typical writing day?
I like to work the whole morning without interruption (in an ideal world!), then time off, for a swim perhaps, and back about 5.00 pm. I never work at night.

What do you do when you are not writing? How do you relax? What are your hobbies? I love reading other people's crime novels to relax.

Have you started your next book? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I'm going to write about Queen Elizabeth I. I always wanted to look at the other side of the picture since I wrote Mary Queen of Scots nearly 40 years ago and now it's time.

What single thing might people be surprised to learn about you?
I used to play rugger at the Dragon School! My children never believed me and I don't think my grandchildren do. On the wing, not in the scrum.

Featured books by Antonia Fraser

Jemima Shore at the Sunny Grave A Jemima Shore Mystery

Jemima Shore at the Sunny Grave A Jemima Shore Mystery

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/06/2015

From treachery in the Caribbean to mischief in the Mediterranean, from murderous drama to sleek black comedy, from a baffling number of suspects to a single confrontation with a maniacal rapist - a collection of wittily told and deftly turned stories, with a twist.

Jemima Shore's First Case A Jemima Shore Mystery

Jemima Shore's First Case A Jemima Shore Mystery

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/06/2015

In this collection of mysterious and thrilling short stories, Jemima Shore is at her sparkling best as she solves the case of the Parr children in a remote corner of the Scottish Highlands and elegantly deals with a missing bride in Venice.

My History A Memoir of Growing Up

My History A Memoir of Growing Up

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/01/2015

Antonia Fraser's memoir describes growing up in the 1930s and 1940s but its real concern is with her growing love of History. The fascination began as a child - and developed into an enduring passion; as she writes, 'for me, the study of History has always been an essential part of the enjoyment of life'. Born Antonia Pakenham, the eldest of the eight children of the future Lord and Lady Longford, her childhood was spent in Oxford, where her father was a don at Christ Church. Evacuation at the beginning of the war to a romantic Elizabethan manor house nearby was an inspiration for historical imaginings. There were adventures in Anglo-Ireland at Dunsany Castle and Pakenham Hall, each offering her treasured links to the past which became private obsessions. North Oxford wartime life included four years as one of the few girls then admitted to the Dragon School for boys, followed by time at a convent school after her family's conversion to Catholicism. Her father joined the Labour Government in 1945 as a Minister, which provided an odd background for exploits such as working in a Bond Street hat shop and a season as a self- made debutante. A job in publishing, by a fortunate coincidence, followed Oxford University and the book ends with the dramatic leap forward with the publishing of Mary Queen of Scots which became a worldwide bestseller to general amazement (including the author's).

The Perilous Question The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832

The Perilous Question The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/05/2014

 For our inconclusive times, there is an attractive resonance with 1832, with its 'rotten boroughs' of Old Sarum and the disappearing village of Dunwich, and its lines of most resistance to reform. This book is character-driven - on the one hand, the reforming heroes are the Whig aristocrats Lord Grey, Lord Althorp and Lord John Russell, and the Irish orator Daniel O'Connell. They included members of the richest and most landed Cabinet in history, yet they were determined to bring liberty, which whittled away their own power, to the country. The all-too-conservative opposition comprised Lord Londonderry, the Duke of Wellington, the intransigent Duchess of Kent and the consort of the Tory King William IV, Queen Adelaide. Finally, there were 'revolutionaries' and reformers, like William Cobbett, the author of RURAL RIDES. This is a book that features one eventful year, much of it violent. There were riots in Bristol, Manchester and Nottingham, and wider themes of Irish and 'negro emancipation' underscore the narrative. The time-span of the book is from Wellington's intractable declaration in November 1830 that 'The beginning of reform is the beginning of revolution', to 7th June 1832, the date of the extremely reluctant royal assent by William IV to the Great Reform Bill, under the double threat of the creation of 60 new peers in the House of Lords and the threat of revolution throughout the country. These events led to a total change in the way Britain was governed, a two-year revolution that Antonia Fraser brings to vivid dramatic life.

Other books by Antonia Fraser

Our Israeli Diary Of That Time, Of That Place

Our Israeli Diary Of That Time, Of That Place

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/01/2017

In May 1978 Harold Pinter and Antonia Fraser visited Israel at the time of the 30th Anniversary of Independence. It was three years after they first lived together; neither had set foot in Israel before. Based in Jerusalem, they toured many of the country's historic sites: from Bethlehem to the fortress of Masada, encountering future Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek, Jackie Kennedy and a long-lost cousin of Harold's on a kibbutz. It was a trip during which Pinter's feelings about his heritage emerged for the first time. As he said himself: `For the first time I feel Jewish'. This diary was kept daily by Antonia Fraser: the vivid narrative and descriptions (Antonia swimming in the Dead Sea while Harold had a beer) are leavened with humour, occasionally wry where Harold's quirks were concerned, and always tender. Above all, it is a unique picture of a time and place - and a touching insight into fifteen days in the lives of two writers, one Jewish, one Catholic, one a playwright and one a biographer, who were also a devoted couple.

The Pleasure of Reading 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them

The Pleasure of Reading 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 21/05/2015

In this delightful collection forty-three acclaimed writers explain what first made them interested in literature, what inspired them to read and what makes them continue to do so. First published in 1992 in hardback only, original contributors include Margaret Atwood, J. G. Ballard, Melvyn Bragg, A. S. Byatt, Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Gray, Germaine Greer, Alan Hollinghurst, Doris Lessing, Candia McWilliam, Edna O'Brien, Ruth Rendell, Tom Stoppard, Sue Townsend and Jeanette Winterson. The new edition will include essays from five new writers, Emily Berry, Kamila Shamsie, Rory Stewart, Katie Waldegrave and Tom Wells. Royalties generated from this project will go to Give a Book, www.giveabook.org.uk, a charity set up in 2011 that seeks to get books to places where they will be of particular benefit. Give a Book works in conjunction with Age UK, Prison Reading Groups, Maggie's Centres, which help people affected by cancer, and various schools and literacy projects, such as Beanstalk, where many pupils have never had a book of their own in their lives.

My History

My History

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: CD-Audio Release Date: 08/01/2015

Antonia Fraser's memoir describes growing up in the 1930s and 1940s but its real concern is with her growing love of history. The fascination began as a child when her evacuation at the beginning of the war to an Elizabethan manor house became an inspiration for historical imaginings - and developed into an enduring passion; as she writes, 'for me, the study of History has always been an essential part of the enjoyment of life'.

Antonia Fraser Collection

Antonia Fraser Collection

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: eBook Release Date: 23/05/2013

Nine ebooks from the bestselling historian Antonia Fraser, shedding light on some of the most fascinating and controversial people and events of European history.MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTSMary, Queen of Scots passed her childhood in France and married the dauphin to become queen of France at the age of sixteen. Widowed less than two years later, she returned to Scotland as queen after an absence of thirteen years.CROMWELLNo Englishman has made more impact on the history of his nation than Oliver Cromwell; few have been so persistently maligned in the folklore of history. The central purpose of Antonia Fraser's book is the recreation of his life and character, freed from the distortions of myth and Royalist propaganda.KING CHARLES IISpanning his life both before and after the Restoration, Antonia Fraser's lively and fascinating biography captures all the vitality of the man and the expansiveness of the age.THE WEAKER VESSELAn expert on the period, Antonia Fraser brings to life the many and various women she has encountered in her considerable research: governesses, milkmaids, fishwives, nuns, defenders of castles, courtesans, countesses, witches and widows.THE WARRIOR QUEENSWarrior Queens are those women who have both ruled and led in war. It examines how Antonia Fraser's heroines have held and wrestled the reins of power from their (consistently male) adversaries.THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIIIThe six wives of Henry VIII: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr. They may have been victims of Henry's obsession with a male heir, but they were not willing victims. THE GUNPOWDER PLOTDramatically recreating the conditions and motives that surrounded the fateful night of 5 November 1605, she unravels the tangled web of religion and politics that spawned the plot.MARIE ANTOINETTEAntonia Fraser examines her influence over the king, Louis XVI, the accusations and sexual slurs made against her, her patronage of the arts which enhanced French cultural life, her imprisonment, the death threats made against her, her trial and her eventual execution by guillotine in 1793.LOVE AND LOUIS XIVAntonia Fraser brilliantly explores the relationships which existed between the Sun King and the women in his life.

Perilous Question

Perilous Question

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: eBook Release Date: 07/05/2013

Antonia Frasers Perilous Question is a dazzling re-creation of the tempestuous two-year period in Britains history leading up to the passing of the Great Reform Bill in 1832, a narrative which at times reads like a political thriller.The era, beginning with the accession of William IV, is evoked in the novels of Trollope and Thackeray, and described by the young Charles Dickens as a cub reporter. It is lit with notable characters. The reforming heroes are the Whig aristocrats led by Lord Grey, members of the richest and most landed cabinet in history yet determined to bring liberty, which would whittle away their own power, to the country. The all-too-conservative opposition was headed by the Duke of Wellington, supported by the intransigent Queen Adelaide, with hereditary memories of the French Revolution. Finally, there were revolutionaries, like William Cobbett, the author of Rural Rides, the radical tailor Francis Place, and Thomas Attwood of Birmingham, the charismatic orator. The contest often grew violent. There were urban riots put down by soldiers and agricultural riots led by the mythical Captain Swing.The underlying grievance was the fate of the many disfranchised people. They were ignored by a medieval system of electoral representation that gave, for example, no votes to those who lived in the new industrial cities of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and Birmingham, while allocating two parliamentary representatives to a village long since fallen into the sea and, most notoriously, Old Sarum, a green mound in a field. Lord John Russell, a Whig minister, said long afterwards that it was the only period when he genuinely felt popular revolution threatened the country. The Duke of Wellington declared intractably in November 1830 that The beginning of reform is the beginning of revolution. So it seemed that disaster must fall on the British Parliament, or the monarchy, or both.The question was: Could a rotten system reform itself in time? On June 7, 1832, the date of the extremely reluctant royal assent by William IV to the Great Reform Bill, it did. These events led to a total change in the way Britain was governed, and set the stage for its growth as the worlds most successful industrial power; admired, among other things, for its traditions of good governancea two-year revolution that Antonia Fraser brings to vivid dramatic life.

Agnes Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England

Agnes Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/02/2011

Strickland was possibly the most celebrated English female historical biographer of the 19th Century. Antonia Fraser selects her best writing and explains its importance. The Lives of the Queens of England were among the most popular of all Victorian historical publications. They remain an important pioneering achievement in the writing of historical biography. Agnes Strickland worked in manuscript collections and managed to obtain access to the state paper office. 'Facts not opinions' was her credo and the Lives were an important resource for later scholars, decades after their original publication. Antonia Fraser, the doyenne of modern historical biographers, makes a selection of her favourite passages from Strickland's work and writes an extensive introduction in which she states that the Lives 'remain in many ways as fresh and as entertaining as their first delighted readers must have found them'. Her selection concerns Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth I. Continuum Histories will attract a new generation of readers to some of the greatest narrative history ever written. Each volume includes a dramatic episode from a major work of history, prefaced with an introduction by a leading modern authority.

Love and Louis XIV

Love and Louis XIV

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: eBook Release Date: 17/10/2006

The superb historian and biographer Antonia Fraser, author of Marie Antoinette, casts new light on the splendor and the scandals of the reign of Louis XIV in this dramatic, illuminating look at the women in his life.The self-proclaimed Sun King, Louis XIV ruled over the most glorious and extravagant court in seventeenth-century Europe. Now, Antonia Fraser goes behind the well-known tales of Louiss accomplishments and follies, exploring in riveting detail his intimate relationships with women.The kings mother, Anne of Austria, had been in a childless marriage for twenty-two years before she gave birth to Louis XIV. A devout Catholic, she instilled in her son a strong sense of piety and fought successfully for his right to absolute power. In 1660, Louis married his first cousin, Marie-Thrse, in a political arrangement. While unfailingly kind to the official Queen of Versailles, Louis sought others to satisfy his romantic and sexual desires. After a flirtation with his sister-in-law, his first important mistress was Louise de La Vallire, who bore him several children before being replaced by the tempestuous and brilliant Athnas, marquise de Montespan. Later, when Athnass reputation was tarnished, the King continued to support her publicly as Athnas left court for a life of repentance. Meanwhile her childrens governess, the intelligent and seemingly puritanical Franoise de Maintenon, had already won the Kings affections; in a relationship in complete contrast to his physical obsession with Athnas, Louis XIV lived happily with Madame de Maintenon for the rest of his life, very probably marrying her in secret. When his grandsons child bride, the enchanting Adelaide of Savoy, came to Versaille she lightened the Kings last years until tragedy struck.With consummate skill, Antonia Fraser weaves insights into the nature of womens religious lives as well as such practical matters as contraception into her magnificent, sweeping portrait of the king, his court, and his ladies.From the Hardcover edition.

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette

Author: Antonia Fraser Format: eBook Release Date: 05/09/2006

The national bestseller from the acclaimed author of The Wives of Henry VIII.France's beleaguered queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the infamous ';Let them eat cake,' was the subject of ridicule and curiosity even before her death; she has since been the object of debate and speculation and the fascination so often accorded tragic figures in history. Married in mere girlhood, this essentially lighthearted, privileged, but otherwise unremarkable child was thrust into an unparalleled time and place, and was commanded by circumstance to play a significant role in history. Antonia Fraser's lavish and engaging portrait of Marie Antoinette, one of the most recognizable women in European history, excites compassion and regard for all aspects of her subject, immersing the reader not only in the coming-of-age of a graceful woman, buaimedt also in the unraveling of an era.

Author Info

Author's Website

http://www.antoniafraser.com/

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