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The Queen’s spy!
What is the Ursula Blanchard series about?
Historical fiction set in the reign of Elizabeth I of England, the Ursula Blanchard series is written by British author Valerie Anand under the pen name Fiona Buckley.
Ursula Faldene Blanchard de la Roche Stannard is the illegitimate half-sister to Queen Elizabeth I, a twenty-seven-year-old Lady of the Presence Chamber, and sometimes spied on the Queen’s behalf.
Ursula is a smart and resourceful woman who gets embroiled in various mysteries and intrigues at court and in the wider world of Elizabethan England. She uses her intelligence, courage, and wit to navigate the complex politics and social dynamics of her time, while also dealing with personal challenges, solving crimes, and protecting her loved ones, often risking her own safety in the process.
Ursula Blanchard Books in Order:
Every book in the Ursula Blanchard series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- To Shield the Queen (1997)
- The Doublet Affair (1998)
- Queen’s Ransom (2000)
- To Ruin a Queen (2000)
- Queen of Ambition (2001)
- A Pawn for the Queen (2002)
- The Fugitive Queen (2003)
- The Siren Queen (2004)
- Queen Without A Crown (2011)
- Queen’s Bounty (2012)
- Rescue For A Queen (2013)
- A Traitor’s Tears (2014)
- A Perilous Alliance (2015)
- The Heretic’s Creed (2016)
- A Deadly Betrothal (2017)
- The Reluctant Assassin (2018)
- A Web of Silk (2019)
- The Scent of Danger (2020)
- Forest of Secrets (2021)
- Shadow of Spain (2021)
- Golden Cargoes (2022)
- The Net of Steel (2023)
What is the plot of the Ursula Blanchard stories?
For more information about the books in the Ursula Blanchard series by Fiona Buckley, you’ll find below the official synopsis for all the books:
To Shield the Queen – Rumor has linked Queen Elizabeth I to her master of horses, Robin Dudley. As gossip would have it, only his ailing wife, Amy, prevents marriage between Dudley and the Queen. To quell the idle tongues at court, the Queen dispatches Ursula Blanchard to tend to the sick woman’s needs. But not even Ursula can prevent the “accident” that takes Amy’s life.
The Doublet Affair – Torn between her duties and her personal life, Ursula Blanchard has asked permission from the Queen to leave the court for a time. But Queen Elizabeth will only grant that request if Ursula will first assist Sir William Cecil in his investigation of a troubling plot against Elizabeth — one that could place her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne of England.
Queen’s Ransom – It’s 1562 and Catholic Spain threatens the stability of Protestant England. In France, the Protestant Huguenots also face threats from the powerful Catholics. Fearing that such pro-Catholic movements might spread to England, Elizabeth hopes to mediate a peace between the two French factions. Enter Ursula Blanchard who has a special mandate from Sir William Cecil, Secretary of State, to spy on behalf of the queen.
To Ruin a Queen – Still loyal to her royal mistress but needing to be with her French husband, Matthew de la Roche, Ursula begins to build a new life for herself at Matthew’s château. She loves Matthew, although she longs desperately for her little girl, Meg, left behind in England. But when Meg’s passage is finally arranged, the child is missing. Where is she, and could her disappearance be part of a plot to tempt Ursula back to her homeland?
Queen of Ambition – Assigned as a harbinger for the Queen’s upcoming Summer Progress to Cambridge, Ursula Blanchard is placed in charge of not only Her Majesty’s comfort but also her safety. For Ursula, that means undertaking menial employment in a pie shop to investigate rumored political perils behind a swashbuckling student playlet conceived at the University to entertain the Queen.
A Pawn for a Queen – Ursula Blanchard’s relatives enlist her help when her cousin, Edward Faldene, heads to Scotland carrying a dangerous weapon: a secret list of families loyal to Elizabeth’s rival, Mary, Queen of Scots. Desperate to stop the treasonous mission, Ursula rides north in haste to intercept her cousin.
Fugitive Queen – It is 1568, three years since Ursula Blanchard exchanged her work as a spy for the relative calm of married life. But when Elizabeth summons her, Ursula senses there is more to her seemingly benign request than meets the eye. She is to pluck Penelope Mason, her inappropriately flirtatious protégé, from court and find the disgraced girl a husband, and she is also to deliver a secret warning to Elizabeth’s arch rival, Mary, Queen of Scots.
The Siren Queen – The year is 1569. Ursula Blanchard is living quietly in the country. Ursula’s thoughts are on domestic matters as she watches her daughter, Meg, grow up. Meg will soon be fourteen, so perhaps it is time to think of a betrothal. When an invitation to visit arrives from the powerful Duke of Norfolk, Ursula and Hugh welcome the chance for Meg to meet an apparently worthy young man of the Duke’s household, Edmund Dean. Is he a possible husband for Meg?
Queen Without a Crown – November, 1569: Happily married to her third husband, Hugh Stannard, Ursula Blanchard is hoping to give up her undercover work for Queen Elizabeth l in order to enjoy domestic bliss. But when Hugh unwittingly endangers possession of his ancestral home, Ursula is forced to take on a seemingly hopeless, but handsomely paid, private assignment…
Queen’s Bounty – Happily married to her third husband, Ursula Blanchard is rudely shaken on receipt of a threatening letter from the exiled Anne Percy, Countess of Northumberland, whose treasonous plot against Elizabeth I, Ursula helped foil a few months previously. Ursula dismisses the Countess’s letter as idle threats, but then a series of strange events rocks Ursula’s household – and Ursula herself is accused of witchcraft.
A Rescue for a Queen – February, 1571. Ursula is once more plunged into affairs of the state when she escorts her foster daughter Margaret to the Netherlands to meet her suitor. The queen’s spymaster, Sir William Cecil, learns that the wealthy Italian banker Roberto Ridolfi will be hosting their forthcoming wedding – a man who he fears may once again be plotting to put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne.
A Traitor’s Tears – July, 1573. Recently widowed, Ursula Blanchard is living a quiet life on her Surrey estate, caring for her infant son. But her peaceful existence is shattered when Ursula’s neighbour Jane Cobbold is found dead in her own flowerbed, stabbed through the heart with a silver dagger – and Ursula’s manservant Brockley is arrested for the crime.
A Perilous Alliance – January, 1576. After three husbands, widow Ursula Blanchard has no desire to marry again. However, she is not in a position to refuse when Sir Francis Walsingham decides she must wed Count Gilbert Renard, the illegitimate son of King Henri II, in order to build a strategic alliance with the French.
The Heretic’s Creed – February, 1577. Sir William Cecil has a dangerous new mission for Ursula Blanchard. He has asked her to visit Stonemoor House on the bleak Yorkshire moors, the home of a group of recusant women led by Abbess Philippa Gould. In their possession is an ancient book, and the Queen’s advisor, Dr John Dee, is eager to get hold of it.
A Deadly Betrothal – July, 1579. Called upon to help a family friend who is horrified at the return of her errant husband after an absence of thirty years, little does Ursula realize that her involvement in the Harrison family’s domestic dramas will lead to a case of cold-blooded murder.
The Reluctant Assassin – March, 1581. Queen Elizabeth is once again being urged to consider marriage to the Duke of Alençon, a French Catholic twenty years her junior. The prospect of the match is causing unrest throughout the kingdom. Ursula Blanchard however has more immediate matters to worry about when her 9-year-old son is snatched away while out riding. If she is ever to see him again, Ursula must undertake an impossibly difficult and dangerous mission – and commit an act of high treason.
A Web of Silk – August, 1582. The queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, has ordered Ursula to keep an eye on her new neighbour, Giles Frost, who is rumoured to be spying for King Philip of Spain. Arriving at Knoll House on the pretext of teaching his two daughters embroidery, Ursula’s secret mission is to feed false information to Frost to pass on to the Spanish.
The Scent of Danger – February, 1586. When the queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, learns that Ursula is to visit her relatives in Devon, he asks her to find out what has happened to two of his local agents, who have been strangely silent recently. On arrival in the small Devon village of Zeal Aquatico, Ursula discovers that both spies in question have met with mysterious – and fatal – accidents. Or is there more to it than that?
Forest of Secrets – May, 1586. Ursula and her retinue return home from a lengthy trip to discover she has an unexpected visitor. Etheldreda Hope is a simple countrywoman who has come to Ursula with disturbing tales of strange goings-on in her rural village. Fearing that Etheldreda’s reports of mysterious forest rites indicate a possible conspiracy to overthrow Queen Elizabeth in favour of her cousin, Mary Stuart, the queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, orders Ursula to travel to Etheldreda’s home to find out what’s really going on.
Shadow of Spain – March, 1588. With England in a state of high alert as King Philip of Spain amasses a vast fleet of warships ready to invade, Queen Elizabeth and her advisors seek a possible alliance with the Duke of Parma, Governor of the Netherlands. But their plans suffer a major setback when one of their most reliable spies is found murdered in the Hertfordshire countryside, shot dead by a crossbow bolt as he was transporting secret correspondence between the queen and the duke.
Golden Cargoes – May 1589. Being the queen’s half-sister and occasional secret agent can take its toll, which is why Ursula Stannard is looking forward to the simple pleasure of attending the wedding of her tenant’s daughter. But on arrival, Arabella the bride-to-be is refusing to marry her intended. Ursula tries to reason with Arabella on behalf of her mother, Joan Mercer, but she senses all is not well with her betrothed, or within the Mercer household. The family has gold and jewels beyond their means, and Ursula suspects they may not have gained such riches legally.
The Net of Steel – April, 1590. Ursula Stannard, the queen’s half-sister and occasional secret agent, has just left Sir Francis Walsingham’s funeral when she is summoned back to her childhood home, Faldene House, by her aunt. Uncle Herbert has died suddenly from natural causes, but Ursula’s arrival in the Sussex Downs triggers a shocking sequence of death and devastation. Through her service to the queen, Ursula has made dangerous enemies. The formidable Mercer brothers are set on revenge, and their cruelty knows no limits.
What should you read if you like the Ursula Blanchard novels?
If you like reading Fiona Buckley’s Ursula Blanchard stories you may be interested in Her Royal Spyness, the Thomas Chaloner series, the Nicholas Shelby novels.