Book Review – ‘Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen’ by Alison Weir


This was a very interesting take on the life of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard, particularly her early life. Alison Weir’s writing always engages me; more so when she writes novels than her non-fiction works actually. It was quite mesmerising to read and once I got engaged in it, I did find it very difficult to put down.

Katherine’s relationship with her sister, Lady Baynton, was especially poignant for me. It was amazing to see a different side to Katherine, even a fictional take, and there isn’t very much written about her relations with her family. It was lovely to see that possible family dynamic and imagine what her life might have been like in those early years as her life seemed to crumble around her. I think in many biographies of Katherine her family is kind of pushed to the side – focuses very much on the Duke of Norfolk and the dowager duchess.

The relationships Katherine had with Manox, Dereham and Culpeper were portrayed in very contrasting ways, so it was interesting to see how they were juxtaposed against each other. They all in a way seem to be portrayed almost as child abuse, particularly those with Manox and Dereham, as older men took advantage of a vulnerable child. Katherine was portrayed as being quite naïve in the way she thought about things, even while at court.

It is a fascinating and intriguing account, well-written with tiny details, great description, and one of the best fictional accounts of Katherine Howard’s life that I’ve read. The entire series is a great arc of the wives of Henry VIII throughout his life, and it’s interesting to see Henry through their eyes.

I would thoroughly recommend this series, because it’s very well-written and offers a slightly different perspective to other works, both fictional and non-fiction, particularly on the lesser-known queens I’ve found like Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard.

Review also published on my sister blog bookbloggerish.wordpress.com

Book Review – ‘Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets’ by Alison Weir


I think I’ve put off reading this book because I read some reviews when it first came out that said that Alison Weir had portrayed Anne of Cleves as having a pregnancy before she married Henry VIII. I don’t believe that and there isn’t really anything in the historical record to back it up.

However, I was really interested to read Weir’s take on Katherine Howard, ‘Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen’, so I really wanted to read the Anne of Cleves book to get the background. I was actually pleasantly surprised when it came down to it and I got really involved in the story. I actually preferred Weir’s take on Anne of Cleves to that of Katherine Howard, now I’ve read both books.

I’ve always loved Weir’s style of writing when it comes to her fiction books – she seems to have a better writing style for fiction than non-fiction. Weir really engages the reader in the story she’s telling, and makes you believe that you’re really there with vivid descriptions and great characterisation.

Once I started reading I found it quite hard to put down actually, maybe that’s because there was so much that wasn’t a part of the historical record and it made reading it that much more exciting and unexpected. The historical record is described in an additional chapter at the end, and where the novel deviates from what has been recorded.

I’d really recommend this series of books to anyone with an interest in the Tudors, or who loves historical fiction. It’s really well-written, with excellent description and full of tiny details.

This review is also published on my sister blog bookbloggerish.wordpress.com

Book Review – ‘1545: Who Sank the Mary Rose?’ by Peter Marsden


Thanks to Pen & Sword for the chance to read and review this book, and I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get around to doing it.

I found this book really interesting. There were so many different parts to it. I’ve never been to the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, though my parents have, and it’s somewhere that I do really want to go. I’ve devoured the guidebook they bought me back, and this book only made me more interested in it and crave a visit even more.

What I found really interesting was the central idea of the book that Henry VIII was responsible for the sinking of the ship the Mary Rose in 1545 because he was determined to have a hand in the redesign of his existing ships around 1536. He filled the Mary Rose with too many guns and her gun ports were too close to the waterline, so when she turned and caught an unexpected gust of wind she heeled over and sank.

The book doesn’t just look at who sank the Mary Rose, but the history of the ship from its beginnings at the start of Henry VIII’s reign right through to when she sank outside Portsmouth Harbour at the end of Henry VIII’s reign. There are also chapters on the salvage efforts, which I didn’t realise began within weeks of the sinking, as well as the lead up to the sinking, reconstructing the ship, and the ship’s legacy.

This is a great read for anyone with an interest in Tudor history or naval history. It’s a really interesting subject and one which deserves more to be written about it.

Chapters:

  1. Disaster
  2. Building the Mary Rose
  3. Into Action 1512-1514
  4. The Second French War 1522
  5. Modernisation
  6. The French King’s Vengeance
  7. Trapped in Portsmouth Harbour
  8. The English Set Sail
  9. The French Admiral Attacks
  10. Admiral Lisle’s Revenge
  11. Salvage
  12. Discovery and Raising
  13. Reconstructing the Mary Rose
  14. Final Moments: The Castles and Masts
  15. Final Moments: Soldiers on the Upper Gun Deck
  16. Final Moments: Main Gun Deck
  17. Final Moments: The Orlop Deck
  18. Final Moments: Bodies in the Hold
  19. Who Sank the Mary Rose?
  20. Legacy of the Mary Rose

Henry VIII Cross Stitch


For anyone who follows me on Instagram (@tudorblogger) you might have been following my lockdown sewing journey to sew Henry VIII and his Six Wives.

The pattern can be found here – https://smile.amazon.co.uk/DMC-Henry-Stitch-Cotton-Various/dp/B0046AADZ2/

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind with some weeks where I have sewn a lot more than other weeks, depending on what has been going on in my life. It has been a difficult few months, but sewing this project has given me a much-needed distraction and when I get it framed it will look amazing hanging above the desk in my study.

To see my progress, click through the below gallery.

Tynemouth Priory and Castle


Tynemouth Priory is the most local historic site to where I live, no more than a 15-minute walk from my home. I’ve lived in the area since I was 7 years old and the Priory has been a constant fixture. I remember going there many times when I was growing up – to see fireworks displays, jousting contests, and other displays.

I didn’t realise until recently that there was actually a Tudor connection and that the Priory was one of those dissolved during the Reformation. The Priory was also the birthplace of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, in 1564.

Early History

Some Roman stones have been found at the Priory, but there is no evidence of any settlement there. The Danes persistently plundered the priory, and Earl Tostig made Tynemouth his fortress during the reign of Edward the Confessor. In 1095 Robert de Mowbray took refuge in Tynemouth Castle after rebelling against William II. In 1110 a new church was founded on the site.

In 1296 the prior of Tynemouth was given royal permission to surround the site with stone walls and in 1390 a gatehouse and barbican were added on the landward side of the castle. It was originally completely enclosed by walls, but the north and east walls fell into the sea and most of the south wall was demolished. In 1312 Edward II and Piers Gaveston took refuge at Tynemouth Castle before fleeing to Scarborough.

In 1336 a new presbytery chapel was built at the north end of the presbytery. In the 1400s the Percy Chantry was added to the east end of the presbytery. This is the only complete part of the church that remains.

The Tudor Connection

In the early 1500s Tynemouth gained independence from St Alban’s Abbey, but the wealth of the priory was huge so it became a target for Henry VIII’s commissioners who in 1536 brought trumped-up charges of misconduct against the prior and 7 of the 15 monks.

In 1538 the priory at Tynemouth was suppressed as part of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. The priory and its lands were granted to Sir Thomas Hilton. Most of the monastic buildings were destroyed, leaving only the church and prior’s house. Within a year work was underway to improve the defences around the priory to protect from invasion from the river. New artillery fortifications were built from 1545 with the threat of invasion from the French.

The castle was also the birthplace of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, in 1564, when his father, the 8th Earl, was custodian of the castle.

Later History

The headland at Tynemouth remained defended throughout the 1700s. A new barracks was built for 1000 men in 1758. By the end of the 18th century military preparedness was in decline, but this ratcheted up again with the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century.

After 1882 Germany was considered a large threat, and so new military gun emplacements were built. During the First World War there was a selection of long-range artillery based at Tynemouth intended to attack ships out at sea. There were also quick-firing guns to attack smaller boats in the River Tyne. Searchlights and ammunition storage were also in place.

During World War Two Tynemouth also had a defensive role, to defend against aircraft as well as enemy shipping. Tynemouth then remained a military base until the UK’s coastal defences were disbanded in 1956. In 1960 many of the military buildings were pulled down to give more prominence to the Medieval ruins.

Tynemouth is a mishmash of Medieval remains and 20th century military fortifications. It is a beautiful place to visit, and an inspiring place to sit and think. Well worth a visit if you haven’t already.

References

Who Was … George Boleyn, 2nd Viscount Rochford?


Name: George Boleyn

Title/s: 2nd Viscount Rochford

Birth: c.1503

Death: 17 May 1536 on Tower Hill, London, England

Burial: Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, England

Spouse: Jane Parker, Viscountess Rochford c.1505-1542

Children: None

Parents: Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire c.1477-1539 & Elizabeth Howard c.1480-1538

Siblings: Mary Stafford c.1499-1543 / Thomas Boleyn c.1500 / Anne Boleyn c.1501-1536 / Henry Boleyn c.1502

Noble Connections: As the brother of Anne Boleyn, George was brother-in-law to Henry VIII and uncle to Elizabeth I. His father-in-law was Lord Morley, and his sister, Mary, was also a mistress to Henry VIII. His uncle on his mother’s side was Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.

Controversy: There has been plenty of controversy raised over George Boleyn, but the most controversial is the idea that he had sex with his sister, Anne, and committed incest. Anne and George were both convicted of incest and were executed as a result. There have also been rumours, fuelled largely by TV show ‘The Tudors’, that George was in fact homosexual, but there is no evidence.

Continue reading “Who Was … George Boleyn, 2nd Viscount Rochford?”

Who Was … Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley?


Name: Henry Stuart

Title/s: Lord Darnley / King Consort of Scotland

Birth: 7th December 1545 at Temple Newsam, Yorkshire, England

Death: 10th February 1567 at Kirk O’Field, Edinburgh, Scotland

Burial: 14th February 1567 at Holyrood Abbey, Scotland

Spouse: Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1587, married 1565

Children: James VI of Scotland 1566-1625

Parents: Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox 1516-1571 & Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox 1515-1578

Siblings: Charles Stuart, 1st Earl of Lennox 1557-1576

Noble Connections: Through his mother, Margaret Douglas, Henry Stuart is the grandson of Margaret Tudor and thus the great-grandson of Henry VII of England. His maternal relations aside from the Tudors are the Earls of Angus. His paternal relations are the Earls of Lennox and Atholl.

Controversy: The main controversy over the life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, is how he died. His body and that of his valet were found in Kirk O’Field, where they had been staying. There was the sound of an explosion early in the morning, later attributed to barrels of gunpowder left in the room underneath Darnley’s. The pair were found in the orchard having fled the scene and Darnley appeared to have been smothered.

Continue reading “Who Was … Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley?”

Documentary Notes – ‘Elizabeth’ with David Starkey – Part 1, From the Prison to the Palace


Elizabeth I c.1546 by William Scrots
Elizabeth I c.1546 by William Scrots
  • January 1559 Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England
  • She was the last of the Tudor dynasty and dazzled the nation and the world
  • Elizabeth reigned for 45 years and her ships sailed round the world and defeated the Armada, Shakespeare wrote plays and Spenser wrote poems
  • English noblemen and foreign princes wooed her
  • Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII
  • The right of women to succeed to the throne was still in doubt
  • Her father would kill her mother and she would be disinherited.
  • Her sister would imprison her in the Tower and threaten to execute her
  • She would be molested by her own stepfather
  • Most monarch have their crowns handed to them on a plate, but Elizabeth would get hers by cunning and courage
  • Elizabeth’s sex was a disappointment to Henry VIII when she was born in September 1533
  • Henry already had a daughter, Mary, aged 17
  • Elizabeth had a magnificent christening with every detail seen to
  • She was declared princess as heir to the throne
  • According to the French ambassador the occasion was perfect, and nothing was lacking
  • But things were far from perfect as Elizabeth was the child of a second marriage
  • The Imperial ambassador refused to attend the baptism and refused to recognise Anne Boleyn as Henry VIII’s wife – referring to Anne as whore and Elizabeth as bastard
  • “Hot but not hot enough” – one ambassador when asked if the baby Elizabeth had been baptised in hot or cold water
  • Henry VIII divorced his first wife Katherine of Aragon because she didn’t give him a son
  • Anne had a stillborn baby boy after 2 miscarriages
  • Anne had failed in her principle duty and Henry had fallen in love with another woman
  • Anne was accused of multiple adultery with 4 men and incest with her brother
  • Anne was executed on Tower Green on 19 May 1536 with a single stroke of a sword rather than an axe
  • Elizabeth was only aged 3 when her mother was executed
  • Elizabeth seems to have airbrushed her mother from her memory and her father filled her world instead
  • Henry and Anne’s marriage was declared null and void
  • Elizabeth was made illegitimate and unable to inherit the throne
  • She became Lady Elizabeth, second bastard daughter of the king
  • Elizabeth’s governess didn’t know what to do and wrote to Cromwell for guidance on Elizabeth’s treatment and clothes
  • No one could forget that Elizabeth was Anne’s daughter and it was to marry Anne that Henry had broken with Rome
  • The monasteries had fallen victim to Henry’s desire to marry Anne – assets were seized, and the buildings destroyed
  • Glastonbury Abbey was one of those that fell
  • There was also spiritual damage – out of the ruins would form a new faith which would divide his country and his family
  • Just over a year after his marriage to Jane Seymour she gave him a son and heir – Edward
  • Elizabeth and Mary were minor royals
  • Elizabeth also lost her governess, Lady Bryan, who was transferred to look after the new baby prince
  • Kat Ashley replaced Lady Bryan and she became close to Elizabeth
  • Her father rarely saw her as she was brought up away from the court
Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘Elizabeth’ with David Starkey – Part 1, From the Prison to the Palace”

‘Katherine Howard: Henry VIII’s Slandered Queen’ by Conor Byrne


Big thanks to The History Press for sending me a review copy of this book, and sorry it’s taken so long to review it!

This book had an interesting premise that I think should have been explored long before now. The idea is that Katherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife wasn’t actually an empty-headed teenager who acted according to her basest instincts, but instead was a young woman who acted as best she could according to her experience and was sexually manipulated by the men in her life. This book challenges the more traditional view.

Byrne makes a good case, but I am unconvinced by his arguments. A lot of the book is repetitive about the nature of Katherine’s relationships with Manox and Dereham, and how the two men had manipulated Katherine into sexual relationships, and even abused her. However, I think it is an intriguing argument.

The book is well-researched with a complete bibliography and notes. There are primary sources cited throughout, and the historiography is discussed in full in the first chapter, including works by Retha Warnicke, Josephine Wilkinson and Gareth Russell. The notes are detailed and advise further reading as well as where the primary sources can be found.

The book could have been shorter had you taken out the repetitiveness, as I felt it was over-stated. However, it is well-worth reading as Conor Byrne discusses a new possibility on Katherine Howard’s sexual relationships and her suitability as queen consort to Henry VIII. It’s quite interesting and if you are fascinated by the six wives of Henry VIII it is accessible and erudite to read.

Chapter List:

  1. Introduction: Historiography of Queen Katherine Howard
  2. Henry VIII’s Accession and the Howards
  3. A Howard Queen
  4. ‘His Vicious Purpose’: Manox and Dereham 1536-9
  5. ‘Strange, Restless Years’: The Howards at Court 1537-40
  6. The Fourth Queen
  7. Queen Katherine
  8. Queenship 1540-1
  9. The Culpeper Affair
  10. Disgrace and Death

‘Kindred Spirits: Ephemera’ by Jennifer C. Wilson


“The afterlife is alive with possibility”

I have loved Jennifer Wilson’s writing since I discovered her books while working at my local library. When I found out that this was a collection of short stories, I was a little disappointed – I really wanted a story set at Windsor Castle with Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville and Henry VIII, but hopefully that will come in the future.

There are characters both old and new including Richard III, John of Gaunt, and Charles Brandon. The variation of characters from so many different periods is one of the things that I love about this series, and this short story collection is brilliant in that respect.  It was interesting to see how the different personalities interacted, particularly the likes of Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, who hadn’t seen each other since Katherine left court in 1531, as well as Edward IV and Richard III, who hadn’t seen each other since Edward IV died in 1483.

Locations include York, Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace, and St Paul’s Cathedral. There are so many important historical locations in Britain, and what I really liked about this collection was that we got to visit so many of them.

My favourite story in the collection is the one at Hampton Court where the six wives of Henry VIII get together. I really wanted the story to be longer actually, but I don’t think it would have been as good had it been longer. It was brilliantly done the way it was. There is a great cliff-hanger at the end, which I really hope lays the foundation for the next book in the series.

Also published on my sister blog https://bookbloggerish.wordpress.com/