So High a Blood: it might set your heart racing


Exclusive interview with author Morgan Ring on her new book about the forgotten Tudor…
By Gabrielle Pantera


“As I researched Margaret, I realized that her life offered a new perspective on the relationship between England and Scotland in the sixteenth century and on the Reformation in Britain, two of my own historical preoccupations,” says So High A Blood author Morgan Ring.

“The book started life as an undergraduate dissertation, which grew into an MPhil thesis, and finally evolved into a full-scale book. I have always been drawn to biography as a way of writing history. It lets us explore major themes in precise detail. So when I was looking for a dissertation topic, and my supervisor mentioned the under-studied, clock-collecting Margaret Douglas, I couldn’t resist.”

It’s Christmas 1530 in the Tudor court. The niece of King Henry VIII, fifteen-year-old Lady Margaret Douglas, arrives. Half English and half Scottish, and Catholic, Margaret incurs the king’s wrath by her engagement which was not approved. When the king takes over the church and England becomes Protestant, she will need to tread very carefully.

Margaret connives for her son to become a suitor of his cousin Mary Queen of Scots. Margaret loses her freedom. But her grandson unites the crowns in 1603 as King James I of England and VI of Scotland.

Because So High A Blood started as a PhD thesis, historical accuracy was paramount from the start. “The first thing I had to do was get a sense of how much material survived,” says Ring. “So, I started with catalogs and calendars. Then I chased up footnotes and talked to archivists. Sometimes, you have no idea what you’re looking for because not everything has been cataloged and not every catalog is available online. After that, it was a question of archive time at the University Library in Cambridge, the National Archives and the National Records in Edinburgh, the National Archives at Kew, along with Lambeth Palace Library, the College of Arms, and above all, the British Library.”

Ring visited the settings for most of the key scenes in the book: Tantallon Castle near North Berwick, Stirling Palace, Holyrood, Temple Newsam, and Hampton Court.

“Margaret was imprisoned in the Tower of London several times,” says Ring. “So, I haunted it in all weathers and in all seasons of the year. I also had a wonderful month as a visiting fellow at the Huntington in San Marino, California.”

So High A Blood is Ring’s first book. It has yet to be optioned for film or TV.

Michael Fishwick in London and George Gibson in New York are Ring’s editors.

“It’s been a privilege and a delight to work with Bloomsbury in both the UK and the U.S.” says Ring. “The only real difficulty is that I’ve bought far too many of their books. I’m still figuring out how to get them all home to Canada.”

Ring is currently writing a book about reading and the Reformation.

Ring is moving to Denmark. She was born in Toronto, Canada. She read History at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and stayed on to write her MPhil and PhD.


So High a Blood: The Story of Margaret Douglas, the Tudor that Time Forgot. By Morgan Ring. Hardcover: 368 pages, Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (April 25, 2017), Language: English, ISBN: 9781632866059 $35.00