Historical Fiction Author Spotlight...Margaret Campbell Barnes

In a new feature here at Passages to the Past I will be spotlighting various historical fiction authors and their bibliographies.  The first up is Margaret Campbell Barnes.  I can't find much about Barnes in the way of a biography, but I did find that she was born in Sussex in 1891 and dided in 1962.  Most of her novels were published in the 40's and 50's. 

Thankfully publishers are re-releasing her novels and I've had a chance to read a few of them so far and have really enjoyed her writing.  I'll start with the re-issues first.

The next one due out is The Passionate Brood and will be released on October 1, 2010.

SYNOPSIS:  Margaret Campbell Barnes explores the Crusader King's triumphs and tragedies in a compelling novel of love, loyalty, and lost chances. The fierce Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine birthed a Plantagenet dynasty before her marriage to Henry II became a mockery, and her family's future hinges on Richard. Linked persistently with the Lionheart in folklore is Robin Hood, portrayed here as Richard's foster brother and conscience, who so enraged the King that he is banished. The Passionate Brood is a tale of a man driven to win back the Holy Land, beset by the guilt of casting out his childhood friend, and shouldering the burden of being the lionhearted leader of the Plantagenets.

Within the Hollow Crown: A Novel of Richard II

SYNOPSIS:  Unlike his father, the Black Prince, or his namesake, King Richard the Lionheart, Richard II never really wanted to be king. But the mantle of royalty is thrust upon his shoulders at age 11, at a time when England is racked by unrest and class warefare. A leader as unexpected as he is inexperienced, young Richard must find a way to triumph over a fierce conflict more destructive than any foreign enemy.

The Tudor Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York


SYNOPSIS:  A magnificent portrait of Elizabeth of York, set against the dramatic background of fifteenth century England. Elizabeth, the only living descendant of Edward IV, has the most valuable possession in all of England—a legitimate claim to the crown. Two princes battle to win Britain's most rightful heiress for a bride and her kingdom for his own. On one side is her uncle Richard, the last Plantagenet King, whom she fears is the murderer of her two brothers, the would-be kings. On the other side is Henry Tudor, the exiled knight. Can he save her from a horrifying marriage to a cut-throat soldier?

Thrust into the intrigue and drama of the War of the Roses, Elizabeth has a country within her grasp—if she can find the strength to unite a kingdom torn apart by a thirst for power. A richly drawn tale of the woman who launched one of the most dramatic dynasties England has ever seen, The Tudor Rose is a vibrant, imaginative look at the power of a queen.

My Lady of Cleves: A Novel of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves

SYNOPSIS:  My Lady of Cleves reveals the mesmerizing story of Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife, one of the rare women who matched wits successfully with the fiery king and lived to tell the tale.

Written by world-renowned historical novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes, My Lady of Cleves gives readers an intimate portrait of the warm, unpretentious princess who never expected to become Queen of England. Knowing the king's ravenous desire for a son, and aware of the disastrous consequences of not bearing an heir, Anne of Cleves bravely took on the duty of weathering the Tudor King's temper, whims, arrogance, and irresponsible passions - and won the hearts of his subjects in the process.

A treat for readers of Tudor fiction and those fascinated by the complex relationships of Henry VIII and his wives, My Lady of Cleves leads readers into a world of high drama and courtly elegance.

King's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew All Their Secrets.


SYNOPSIS:  When country lad Will Somers lands himself the plum position of jester to the mercurial King Henry VIII, he has no idea that he's just been handed a front-row seat to history.
 With a seat near the throne and an ear to the floor, Somers witnesses firsthand the dizzying power struggles and sly scheming that marked the reign of the fiery Tudor king. Somers watches the rise and fall of some of the most enigmatic women in history, including the tragic Katherine of Aragon, the doomed Anne Boleyn, and Mary Tudor, who confided in the jester as she made the best of the fragile life of a princess whom everyone wished was a prince.
 Based on the life of the real Will Somers, King's Fool is infused with Margaret Campbell Barnes' trademark rich detail and historical accuracy. This intimate peek into the royal chambers gives readers a unique view on one of the most tumultuous periods in English history.

First published in 1959 by world-renowned historical novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes, King's Fool is a remarkable insider tale of the intrigue, ruthlessness, and majesty of the Tudor court. When country lad Will Somers lands himself the plum position of jester to the mercurial King Henry VIII, he has no idea that he's just been handed a front-row seat to history.

Brief Gaudy Hour: A Novel of Anne Boleyn
SYNOPSIS:  The infamous love of King Henry VIII and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn undertook a rocky journey from innocent courtier to powerful Queen of England. A meticulous researcher, Margaret Campbell Barnes immerses readers in this intrigue and in the lush, glittery world of the Tudor Court. The beauty and charms of Anne Boleyn bewitched the most powerful man in the world, King Henry VIII, but her resourcefulness and cleverness were not enough to stop the malice of her enemies. Her swift rise to power quickly became her own undoing.

The author brings to light Boleyn's humanity and courage, giving an intimate look at a young woman struggling to find her own way in a world dominated by men and adversaries.

And here are some of her other novels that you can pick up used:

With All My Heart: The Love Story of Catherine of Braganza

Description: A novel of King Charles II of England and his queen Catherine of Braganza.

Description:  A novel of Richard the Lionheart and Berengaria of Navarre.

Description:  This is the story of Mary Floyd who helped King Charles I of England when he was battling Cromwell for his crown and hiding at Carisbrooke Castle.

Description:  A novel of Isabel of France and King Edward II of England.

Description:  A novel of King Richard III.

Description:  A novel based on the life of Frances Stuart, Duchess of Lennox and Richmond who was a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Braganza and famous for refusing to become King Charles II's mistress.

So, dear readers....which novels by MCB have you read and can recommend?  Which ones are you adding to your wishlist?  I will for sure be adding the last 6 to mine!




  1. I've enjoyed the 4 that I've read: King's Fool, Brief Gaudy Hour, My Lady of Cleves and The Tudor Rose. I love the new covers :)It seems most of the HF writer's of that era are favorites of mine.

  2. There's a bit more biographical information in the rereleases. Of those I have read Brief Gaudy Hour, My Lady of Cleves, Within the Hollow Crown and The Tudor Rose. I loved My Lady of Cleves, liked Brief Gaudy Hour, and thought The Tudor Rose and Within the Hollow Crown were okay.

  3. I read and loved King's Fool and I liked the Tudor Rose. I have Brief Gaudy Hour and My Lady of Cleves on my bookshelf but haven't gotten around to them yet. There are a couple on here I didn't know about I'm going to have to add to my list :)

  4. I loved Brief Gaudy Hour, With All My Heart, and the King's Fool. I have collected most of the others too.

  5. I would love to have some of her older books!

  6. I haven't read any of her books, but can see many I would like to read. I buy old books and will have to did through them to see if I have any of these titles. It would be exciting to find some.

  7. I have now managed to put together a few facts about her. She was born Margaret Wood in London in February 1891 (either 21 or 27). She was a prolific writer of short stories before becoming better known for her historical novels, as well as apparently being a buyer of silent French and American films and film-title translator for an agency. Lived in Epsom, Surrey for several years before moving to the Isle of Wight after the war, where she died in 1962.
    The interesting thing is the name Campbell. She was just Margaret Wood when she married George Alfred Barnes in 1917, and the name seems to have first appeared with the birth of her eldest son Michael Campbell Barnes (1920-1944). In fact, on electoral rolls and passenger lists she is just Margaret Barnes and her husband George Alfred Barnes.The origin of the name eludes me.

  8. Hi. I think it was her books as a teenager that first got me into historical fiction. I still have my pre decimalisation copy of The Kings Bed!, and have managed to get a well worn copy of My Lady of Cleves (which remains my favourite). I am aiming to replace or re-obtain Brief Gaudy Hour and The Kings Fool as they are my other favourites. I think in my time I have read them all but Like us they lived which I wasn't even aware about! She was a wonderful writer and it is great to still be able to obtain copies as I am pretty sure that they were out of print for a long time.

  9. I remember reading in a foreword for The Passionate Brood that an earlier title was Like Us They lived. My first Barnes book was Brief Gaudy Hour; it is still a favorite along with My Lady of Cleves. Within the Hollow Crown is also good.


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