For visitors who would like to know something about me, I am a Londoner, born and bred at Westminster, although I have also lived in Norfolk, Sussex and Scotland, and now reside in Surrey. I have been married to Rankin Weir since 1972, and have two children, John (born 1982) and Kate (born 1984). I was educated at the City of London School for Girls, obtaining A-levels in English Literature, Art and History (English and European medieval history, with twelfth- century monasticism in the West as my specialist subject), then at the North Western Polytechnic of London, where I trained as a teacher with History as my main subject, studying world history, English medieval history and the Italian Renaissance. I did not pursue that career, however, because I quickly became disillusioned with trendy teaching methods.
Before becoming a published author in 1989, I was in civil service management, then resigned to become a housewife and mother. From 1991 to 1997, whilst researching and writing books, I ran my own school for children with learning difficulties, before taking up writing full-time.
I have been interested in history since the age of fourteen, when I read my first adult novel, the rather lurid Henry's Golden Queen, by Lozania Prole, about Katherine of Aragon. I was so enthralled by it that I dashed off to read real history books to find out the truth behind what I had read, and thus my passion for history was born. By the time I was fifteen, I had written a three-volume reference work on the Tudor dynasty, a biography of Anne Boleyn based partly on contemporary sources, and several historical plays; I had also started work on the research that would one day take form as my first published book, Britain's Royal Families.
During the early 1970s, I wrote historical novels and the original version of my second published book, The Six Wives of Henry VIII - 1024 pages long, and single-spaced - and had it rejected on the grounds that there was a world paper shortage! I also researched the lives of all the mediaeval Queens of England, research I have since drawn on for several of my books, and for Eleanor of Aquitaine in particular.
After suffering several rejections, and then finding a fantastic literary agent, whose client I am fortunate to remain to this day, I finally found a publisher - the Bodley Head - in 1988. Later, that imprint was taken over by Random House, at which point I was transferred to Jonathan Cape, my present UK publisher. I've been published in the USA by Ballantine (Random House) and Grove Weidenfeld/Grove Atlantic, in Canada by McLelland and Stewart and by numerous publishers all over the world, with my books having been translated into French, Spanish, Korean, Czech, Turkish, Russian and Italian, to name a few!
In 2006, I published my first novel, Innocent Traitor, for Hutchinson, another imprint of Random House; this was published by Ballantine in the USA in 2007. Since then, I have published three further novels, and several more are planned. I must say that I have been fortunate throughout in having the support of wonderful publishers and editorial teams on both sides of the Atlantic. I've been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and been made an honourary life patron of Historic Royal Palaces. I`m still pinching myself to make sure that I`m not dreaming it all!
As a non-fiction author, I write 'popular' history. The term has sometimes been used in a derogatory sense by a few people who should know better, because all historians use the same sources. History is not the sole preserve of academics, although I have the utmost respect for those historians who undertake new research and contribute something new to our knowledge. History belongs to us all, and it can be accessed by us all. And if writing it in a way that is accessible and entertaining, as well as conscientiously researched, can be described as popular, then, yes, I am a popular historian, and am proud and happy to be one.
History is full of wonderful stories and amazing characters. I feel very privileged to be able to bring them to life in both my non-fiction books and my novels. In both cases, I feel that an author has a responsibility to be as true to the facts as is possible. And in an age in which history is increasingly perceived to be 'dumbed down' in schools, on television and on film, we can all learn from a study of the past. We can discover more about ourselves and our own civilisation.
From my heart, I should like to thank those of you who have bought my books, borrowed them from libraries, attended my events or written to me. I do so appreciate your support and encouragement, your creative comments, and also the occasional criticisms, which I do take very seriously, and which - I hope - help me to become a better writer. Thanks are also due to everyone who has sent me information, photographs and ideas for forthcoming books, and to those who just wrote and said how much they enjoyed the ones I'd already written. I was so touched that you`d taken the trouble to write and tell me so.