• Kristin Bundesen, PhD

Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey Knollys - New edition

The second edition of Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey Knollys by Adrienne Dillard is now available from Grey London Press, This novel is told from the perspective of Katherine Carey Knollys, daughter of the 'The Other Boleyn Girl', Mary Boleyn, sister to Queen Anne Boleyn.


The historical Katherine Carey's acknowledged father was Mary Boleyn's husband William Carey. However, some historians, including me, believe that her biological father was King Henry VIII. In this novel, Katherine knows that her father was Henry VIII but keeps it secret to safeguard her family from political consequences. Katherine Carey married Sir Francis Knollys and together they had 14 children. They were both fixtures of the Elizabethan court although Katherine died in 1569. (I stubbornly spell her name with a K instead of a C as her husband used K in a letter to her. There were no spelling rules at the time so both are correct.)


During Katherine's life, all grants of land or means of revenue generation were given to her and her husband jointly. Shortly after their marriage, Francis was made a gentleman pensioner and an act of parliament confirmed the ownership of Rotherfield Greys to both Katherine and Francis in tail/entail male. (See Downton Abbey for more on entails.) As the parliamentary act specifically named Katherine as joint owner, it might be interpreted as a sign of royal favor from Henry VIII. Sir Francis clearly benefitted because of Henry's and his daughter Queen Elizabeth's fondness for Katherine - and not the other way around. He married up.


The novel takes its title from a letter the then Princess Elizabeth wrote to Katherine as the couple and some of their children went into exile during the reign of Mary I to escape the threat of religious persecution. Cor rotto means broken hearted in Italian and gives a glimpse of the closeness between Elizabeth and her cousin, or possibly half-sister, Katherine. It also implies that Katherine knew Italian.


The second edition of Cor Rotto includes some tweaking as all second editions do, but also a new chapter from Sir Francis's point of view, I was honored to contribute a foreword to this edition as well. The Carey-Knollys kinship network is the subject of my doctoral research and I share some more recent research in this introductory bit.


You can read more about the historical Katherine Carey Knollys here, here, and here.