I first came across the name Maliverny Catlyn whilst researching Sir Francis Walsingham for an early draft of this book, and knew I had to use it. The historical Catlyn was an ex-soldier in Walsingham’s employ; unfortunately he was also a little old to be my swashbuckling hero, and a theatre-hating puritan to boot! However he is a very obscure historical figure, about whom little else is known beyond what is stated above, and I was writing an alternate history after all, so I decided to make a few changes.
I divided the historical Catlyn into two characters: a forty-ish puritan forced to work with a theatre company against his personal wishes (John Dunfell, the Duke of Suffolk’s secretary), and a twenty-five-year-old ex-soldier recruited by Walsingham. For the rest of Mal’s background, I started with his name.
Maliverny is a name from Provence in France, and from what little I could discover through Google, belonged to a minor family of aristocracy. In Elizabethan England, it was not unknown for the upper classes to name younger sons after their mother’s family: the most famous example is probably Guilford Dudley, husband of Lady Jane Grey and brother of Robert Dudley, named after his mother Jane Guilford. Hence I made Mal half-French, the son of a French heiress and an English diplomatic aide at the French court.
From there, everything fell into place. Walsingham is known to have been at the English embassy in Paris during the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572, where he could easily have met Mal’s father. Provence was predominantly Catholic during this period, so it seemed obvious to me that Mal would have Catholic sympathies, although I wanted him to be pragmatic enough not to be a zealot, so I decided that firsthand experience of war on the Continent has made him cynical and wary of any cause. Finally, the atmosphere of paranoid xenophobia in late 16th century England means that anyone of non-English birth and/or appearance is suspect, regardless of their religion, which would help to explain why Mal’s career has been patchy, and provides another source of conflict.
My Maliverny Catlyn may not be true to the historical facts, but I aim to make all my characters as true to the period as I can. It’s part of the pleasure of writing the genre—and reading it.