An Interview with Caroline Elizabeth Walton, Victoria Claire Walton and Emily K. Walton

Jul 22, 2019 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

Caroline, Victoria and Emily are three Cincinnati, Ohio, sisters from Summit Country Day School who have all been published in the Concord Review. In this interview I will ask each to speak about their article and their feelings about this accomplishment! They have also been awarded Emerson Prizes.

1. First Caroline, you wrote about THE TUDORS and got it published in Volume 27 number 1 of the Concord Review. Why did you choose to write about The Tudors?

We attended The Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati and there is a required research paper every year. Sophomore year every student writes a history research paper. I chose the Elizabethan Settlement of 1559. Queen Elizabeth I, unique among other monarchs of the time, strayed from religious controversies that would have divided her country further during her reign. England had been torn apart since the reign of her father, Henry VIII, trying to navigate the Protestant Reformation.

Writing the paper raised more questions about the Tudor religious policy for me than it answered and that I could address in that a 12-page paper. Really, to satisfy my curiosity, I decided to write a more in-depth paper on Elizabeth. (I was also motivated by the fact that my older sister wrote on her rival, Mary, Queen of Scots).

So, I decided to explore Elizabeth’s decision to walk the “middle path” and create an environment of religious tolerance in England. What she did was remarkable then and even amazing for today. She declared the Anglican faith the official Church of England but said she would respect an individual’s Catholic faith provided they remained loyal to the crown.

As I was writing the paper, I realized that to understand and appreciate Elizabeth’s actions, one had to research the Tudor monarchs that had preceded her, Mary, Edward and of course, Henry VIII. At first, I tried to just research Mary but then one realizes that she only makes sense in the context of examining Edward’s push towards Protestantism. And of course, it all began with Henry VIII who I was amazed to discover that his actions were motivated by a complex set of reasons instead of just wanting to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, although that certainly played a part.

2. How much research did you have to do for this paper?

My focus was on using as much original source material as possible. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has amazing Tudor resources and when they know you are there to research and not just use the internet they were phenomenally helpful. They gave access to the rare book room where I discovered a first-hand account of a public burning of a Protestant woman during Queen Mary’s reign. I even managed to obtain some resources from England with polite inquiries to librarians explaining my topic and the material I was trying to find. The English were very helpful in finding some of the original statutes I cited.

3. Were there librarians or teachers that helped you ?

Absolutely! Summit history teacher Kelly Cronin mentors everyone at Summit submitting papers to The Concord Review. She is always up front that it is a daunting but rewarding process. My original thought was to write about Queen Elizabeth and her reign during a time of religious turmoil in Europe.

As my paper continued to expand on all of the Tudor monarchs, Ms. Cronin helped me realize that my paper was about much more than Queen Elizabeth I could not have made it through the process without her. The public librarians in Hamilton County were incredibly patient and responsive. They even went out of their way to suggest resources that I had not located.

Caroline Elizabeth Walton, The Tudors, Volume 27, Number 1 {18,000 words)

Victoria Claire Walton, Operation Valkyrie, Volume 29, Number 1 (15,000 words)

4. Victoria, you choose to write about Operation Valkyrie- tell us about this paper and what led you to it?

I have always had an interest in the Holocaust and trying to understand why more people did not speak up. I wrote a paper for Mr. Jeff Stayton’s Honors Holocaust class that discussed Operation Valkyrie and Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg’s role in the coup attempt of 22 July. As I was writing the paper, I found a lot of comment about Stauffenberg.

Some historians thought he was a brave idealist, others an opportunist and a smaller group believes that he and his fellow co-conspirators were naïve. I decided to expand the paper and trace the history of the German military resistance from Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 until the coup attempt on 22 July. I wanted to analyze Stauffenberg’s motivations for myself and form my own opinion. I have to say that my opinion kept changing as I researched the topic.

5. How much research did you have to do and what resources did you use?

The difficulty writing about 22 July is that most of the individuals involved were killed by the Gestapo after the coup failed. I had a lot of initial difficulty in finding primary source material until one day I discovered an affidavit of the Gestapo chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner as he was being interrogated by the Americans after the war. Kaltenbrunner discussed 22 July and how the Gestapo was caught totally by surprise. The original affidavit is located in the records of the Nuremberg War Crime Trials. I spent three days at the Library of Congress in the Main Reading Room review affidavits and depositions of former German military officers and Nazi officials discussing Stauffenberg and 22 July. It really gave me much more of a sense of Stauffenberg. At the time of the coup, he was a rising star in the German Army. Even when he knew the odds were against the plotters he argued that the coup had to go forward to show history that “every German was not a Nazi.” The librarians at the Library of Congress were very helpful and encouraging. I had the Main Reading Room all to myself.

I also was fortunate to spend two days at the library at the U.S. Holocaust Museum listening to a collection of oral interviews about Operation Valkyrie. These interviews really provided me with an understanding of the chaos that existed in Germany on 22 July and how close Stauffenberg came in succeeding. They also gave me a sense of some other key players involved, such as General Henning von Trescow who was active from the start and recruited a number of German Army units on the Eastern Front to rebel once the coup succeeded.

6. What assistance did you get from teachers/librarians/parents?

I could not have written the paper without the thoughtful advice and guidance of two Summit history teachers, Kelly Cronin and Jeff Stayton. They asked great questions during the process and gave me some thoughtful criticisms. The librarians at the Library of Congress and the Holocaust Museum were incredibly helpful and dedicated in helping me locate resources.

Emily K. Walton, Mary Queen of Scots, Volume 24, Number 3 (13,200 words)

7. Emily- Mary Queen of Scots is certainly deserving of an in-depth study. Why did you choose to write about her in specific? 

For a sophomore honors research paper, my teacher Kelly Cronin suggested Mary Queen of Scots as a topic because we had touched on her a bit in class. As I began researching her reign as both queen of France and later Scotland, her courage at her trial for treason is what really intrigued me and it was the focus of the paper. I researched the growing “Catholic scare” during the early part of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and how that played into Mary’s imprisonment and later trial.

Alone and without any assistance, Mary defended her actions against the English prosecutors and a hand- picked jury of pro Elizabeth nobles. She was a victim of the times and the fear that Elizabeth’s advisors had that Catholics were plotting to overthrow the queen and install Mary in her place.

8. Where did you get information about the life of this individual?

I focused on primary resources and somehow, I made find the changed the paper. At the Hamilton County library, I found on microfiche a copy of the original “trial transcript” from Mary’s two-day trial. I never found it at any other location or from any other source. I stumbled upon it looking for other materials.

The transcript quoted Mary and her accusers and gave me a real sense for the atmosphere in the court room. Mary knew she was going to be convicted but she was not going to go quietly. More importantly, her courage was evident as she challenged the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case. She never gave up and continually called them on the injustice of trying her.

I found her to be inspiring.

9. What help, support or mentoring did you get from others? 

My honors history teacher Kelly Cronin encouraged me to write the paper and submit it to The Concord Review.

This interview should serve to congratulate all 3 girls on a great accomplishment! And thanks to all the teachers, librarians and of course their parents for their support!

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