Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses


  • Story of past open to interpretation 
  • Carefully edited and deceitful version of events 
  • Not just a version of what happened – more a tapestry of different stories woven together by whoever was in power at the time 
  • Wars of the Roses was invented by the Tudors to justify their power 
  • Immortalised by Shakespeare – darkest chapter in English history 
  • Lancaster and York locked in battle for the crown of England – kings deposed, innocent children murdered, cousin fought against cousin 
  • 1485 Richard III slain and Henry Tudor took the throne 
  • Henry VII’s victory hailed the ending of the Medieval period 
  • Line between fact and fiction often gets blurred 
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
  • 1455 Stubbins in Lancashire scene of a legendary battle in the Wars of the Roses beginning with volleys of arrows but ran out of ammunition 
  • Lancastrians pelted the Yorkists with black pudding – local legend 
  • Yorkists pelted the Lancastrians with Yorkshire puddings – local legend 
  • Wars of the Roses in national memory 
  • History books – rivalry between Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose) – bloody rivalry largely a creation of the Tudors 
  • 1461 bloodshed real in the middle of a snowstorm at Towton 
  • Lancastrians started out well but tide turned against them, chased by the Yorkists down the slope to a river and so a massacre began 
  • Blood stained the snow red, so location became known as the bloody meadow 
  • Shakespeare portrayed the battle as a bloody Armageddon – represented a country torn apart by war, nothing as bad in our history 
  • Somme 19,000 British soldiers killed on the first day, Towton 28,000 killed 
  • 20 years ago Bradford University revealed barbarity of fighting with remains of 43 men killed at Towton 
  • Head forced down into the spine, poleaxes – exceptional even for the Wars of the Roses 
  • Skirmishes, but real battles only around 8 in 30 years 
  • Not ravaged by all-out war – later myth 
  • Out of 32 years of wars, fighting on lasted a total of 13 weeks 

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses”

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Henry VIII and his Six Wives – Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 3


Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.
Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.
  • Jane Seymour often overlooked – Henry called her his true love
  • Taught Henry the importance of family, battled to reunite him with his daughter and gave him a son and heir
  • Cruel twist of fate – Jane was snatched from him
  • Death and betrayal turned Henry into a bitter and cruel man
  • Made his most disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves
  • 1536 Henry VIII was aged 44, divorced one wife and other in the Tower awaiting execution for adultery and incest
  • Anne’s infidelity humiliated Henry and cast doubt over his sexual prowess
  • While Anne was in the Tower Henry tried to find her replacement
  • Jane Seymour caught the king’s eye, age 24 and had served both Katherine of Aragon anf Anne Boleyn
  • Virtuous, unassuming and honest
  • Henry sent Jane a letter but she sent it back unopened – wanted to make an honourable marriage
  • Henry’s chivalrous side and aroused his desire
  • Once Henry set his mind on having something he would do anything to get it
  • Henry courted Jane in earnest – before Anne Boleyn was executed Jane was in sight as wife number 3
  • 19 May 1536 Anne Boleyn beheaded on Tower Green
  • Anne still hoped for a last minute reprieve and mercy from Henry who had loved her but Henry had already switched his affections to Jane
  • Henry and Jane were planning their future together
  • Less than 24 hours after Anne’s death Henry and Jane were engaged
  • No record of how Jane reacted to Anne’s beheading but didn’t hesitate to step over Anne to the throne
  • Far steelier than anyone realised
  • 11 days after Anne’s beheading Henry and Jane married, Henry in love
  • Not everyone shared Henry’s affection for Jane
  • Chapuys reported that Jane was of middling stature and no great beauty, proud and haughty, of no great wit
  • Why did Henry marry Jane? Had previously been married to 2 attractive and intelligent women
  • Henry liked Jane because she was so different – compassionate, loyal and do what he told her without question

Continue reading “Henry VIII and his Six Wives – Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 3”

Hidden Killers of the Tudor Home – Suzannah Lipscomb Documentary


Suzannah Lipscomb, historian.
Suzannah Lipscomb, historian.
  • Tudor home is icon of Britishness
  • Quaint relics of the past – changed them and us
  • Age of discovery and anything is possible – change most evident in the home, domestic life transformed
  • As with anything new there were risks
  • Life threatening changes made their way into the heart of the Tudor home
  • Emergence of people with new wealth – aspirations for their homes
  • New homes introduced hidden killers to the home
  • Newly discovered lands brought killers home into the kitchen and dining room
  • Boom in trade, prospering in trade and new goods including food and furniture, home became more comfortable than ever home
  • Increase in material goods
  • Dining room – taste for the new and exotic
  • Until the 1540s the English didn’t have a word for orange
  • Sugar became more available with lower prices – slave trade
  • Medieval diet rather bland, enhanced with sugar in Tudor period
  • Sugar needs to be broken up – work hours as well as expense, desirable way of displaying status
  • Could play with sugar to shape and dye it
  • Huge release of energy when sugar introduced to a diet that had none before
  • Consumption more widespread but caused trouble – changes in disease patterns over time, impact of sugar on health
  • Dental health – marked change in dental health. Medieval teeth much healthier than Tudor skulls as sugar introduced
  • Methods of cleaning teeth in the Tudor period made things worse
  • Used solutions to clean their teeth containing sugar or alabaster
  • Kissing comfits were sweets which took away bad breath but damaged teeth
  • Sugar also affects chemicals in the body – serotonin, pleasure chemical

Continue reading “Hidden Killers of the Tudor Home – Suzannah Lipscomb Documentary”

Elizabeth I Episode 2 Starring Lily Cole


Episode 2 – The Enemy Within, aired 16.05.2017

Elizabeth I c.1563 Hampden portrait by Steven van der Meulen
Elizabeth I c.1563 Hampden portrait by Steven van der Meulen

Aged 25 Elizabeth is queen but not safe

1559 Elizabeth crowned queen, but her path to power had been a long battle

She had survived but could never drop her guard

War was raging across Europe as Catholics and Protestants tore each other apart – Elizabeth was plunged into the middle of the battle

Elizabeth most powerful protestant monarch surrounded by catholic enemies

 

Privy council believed Elizabeth needed to marry

Elizabeth declared she was already married to England – sounded great, but just words

Queen had a good reason for not wanting to wed – would reduce her power, wanted to be a real queen not queen in name only

Understandable but left a huge problem – who would rule if she suddenly died?

Continue reading “Elizabeth I Episode 2 Starring Lily Cole”

Elizabeth I Episode 1 Starring Lily Cole


Episode 1 – Battle for the Throne, aired 09.05.2017

Elizabeth I coronation portrait c.1610 copy of a lost original
Elizabeth I coronation portrait c.1610 copy of a lost original

Elizabeth I was England’s greatest queen – strong-willed, passionate and brave

Vulnerable woman surrounded by danger

Enemies scheming for her crown and plotting against her life

Would never know a moment’s peace

From the minute of her birth she was thrust into a bloody game – life and death

Never knew who to trust and who to fear

Hopes, fears, enemies who stalked her at every turn

What drove her enemies? Risks? Plots? How close they came to destroying Elizabeth

Elizabeth fell prey to a ruthless lord, sister’s love turns murderous

Continue reading “Elizabeth I Episode 1 Starring Lily Cole”

Errors in The Tudors Season 4


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Tamsin Merchant as Katherine Howard and Torrance Coombs as Thomas Culpeper

Episode 1 – Moment of Nostalgia

  • Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Katherine, are separated – later on in the series he has an affair. In reality, there is no evidence that the marriage of the Brandons was unstable, it seems to have been relatively happy.
  • On screen, Henry Howard, is shown as being in his mid-forties and calls Katherine Howard his niece. In reality, Henry and Katherine were cousins, and he was actually only in his mid-twenties at this time.
  • When Princess Elizabeth meets Katherine Howard she looks around 13/14 years old, but in reality she would only have been around 6/7.
  • Henry VIII speaks of the death of the French dauphin just after his marriage to Katherine in 1540, but the dauphin died in 1536.
  • Henry VIII is shown condemning Viscount Lisle to death, but he actually died in 1542 when being given news of his release.
  • A marriage between Princess Mary and the Duke of Orleans is proposed on screen, but the duke was already married in reality by this point.
  • There is no evidence that Anne Stanhope cheated on her husband, the Earl of Hertford, let alone with his brother. This perhaps parallels the supposed affair of Hertford’s first wife with his own father.

Continue reading “Errors in The Tudors Season 4”

Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 3


Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540

Episode 1 – Civil Unrest

  • Henry VIII introduces Ambassador Chapuys to Jane Seymour, like it was her first time meeting him – she had been at court for some years serving both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, so would have met the ambassador before.
  • Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, served as Jane’s principal lady-in-waiting – Jane Boleyn did serve under Jane Seymour, but the latter’s principal lady-in-waiting was actually her sister, Elizabeth Seymour.
  • Francis Bryan first appears in season 3 – he was actually active at court from 1528, and was instrumental in helping Cromwell to bring about the fall of Anne Boleyn, although this isn’t shown.
  • Francis Bryan threatening to beat Mary’s head against the wall until it was as soft as a boiled apple – these words were spoken to Mary, but it was before her mother had even died (season 2) and it wasn’t by Francis Bryan, but by either George Talbot or Thomas Howard, both staunch Boleyn supporters.
  • The women at the Tudor court all seems to wear crowns and tiaras – all women in the Tudor court would have worn hoods rather than these, even queens.

Continue reading “Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 3”

The King is Dead: Royal Death and Succession under the Tudors


Talk by David Starkey @ Whitley Bay Playhouse 11/05/2016

A couple of months ago I went to hear a talk by David Starkey on the Tudor succession at my local theatre. These are the notes I took on the day:-


Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540

Similar to today?

Cromwell similar to David Cameron?

Death of a monarch – die publicly, semi-public, public proclamation.

Every Tudor death of a monarch is kept secret.

Intrigues, political struggles – characteristic over regime with autocratic rulers.

Henry VIII’s death replicates that of Henry VII.

Elizabeth I’s death = change of dynasty. Robert Carey rides to Edinburgh to tell James VI of Scotland he is now James I of England.

One smooth succession – death of Mary I, throne goes to Elizabeth I. Mary believed she was pregnant even on her deathbed.

English relations with Scots not good historically – Elizabeth militarily prepared over religion.

Henry VIII’s death – divided factional politics, like today – parties divided within themselves. Continue reading “The King is Dead: Royal Death and Succession under the Tudors”

Britain’s Bloody Crown Part 2 14.01.2016


Edward IV
Edward IV

One of the most turbulent and violent periods in Britain’s history.

1461 Henry VI had the throne snatched away by young and charismatic Edward IV – he was helped to the throne by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick – the Kingmaker.

It took Edward 7 years to learn that to save the country a good king must do bad things.

3 months after Richard Duke of York’s death Edward IV takes his revenge on the king.

The bloodiest battle on English soil ends (Towton) and Edward IV succeeds as the king and queen’s forces have been wiped out and Henry VI and his family are forced to flee to Scotland.

28000 men slaughtered in 10 hours, pretty much half of the troops involved in the fight.

Edward declared king in 1461, aged just 18 – 12th plantagenet king of England.

Edward needs to end the violence, assisted by Warwick, to make the country stable and safe. Continue reading “Britain’s Bloody Crown Part 2 14.01.2016”

Britain’s Bloody Crown Part 1 07.01.2016


Henry VI 1540 at the National Portrait Gallery
Henry VI 1540 at the National Portrait Gallery

Nearly 600 years ago Wars of the Roses fought over the crown.

30 years crown changed hands 7 times.

Struggle erupted when there was a feud between Margaret of Anjou (Queen of England) and Richard, Duke of York, over the control of the weak king, Henry VI.

Trouble began because Henry VI was so weak that a vacuum opened in England that takes 50 years to be fixed.

May 1450 Henry VI in power, Duke of Suffolk papered over the cracks, but he is now dead by rebel hands.

Summer 1450, no one now left to keep a lid on trouble for Henry VI – rebels enter London and cause violence and looting.

Henry VI never seen a battlefield, shallow, pious and foolish.

Henry VI tries to placate rebels by giving them the corrupt Lord Say – they try and execute him at the Guildhall.

England dissolving into anarchy – Henry VI leaves London for Kenilworth. Continue reading “Britain’s Bloody Crown Part 1 07.01.2016”