The Month of May


In the Tudor world, the month of May tends to be seen as Anne Boleyn month where the internet (and me, I have to admit!) goes a bit bananas over Henry VIII’s second wife. Of course, she was executed on the 19th of the month in 1536 on what is now generally accepted as fabricated charges of adultery, incest and treason. Those hellish weeks were immortalised in verse by Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger:

“These bloody days have broken my heart.

My lust, my youth did them depart,

And blind desire of estate.

Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.

Of truth, circa Regna tonat.”

Thomas Wyatt, ‘Circa Regna Tonat’

Those chilling last words translate from the Latin to “thunder rolls around the throne” – well it certainly did when Henry VIII was sitting on the throne.

But what else happened in May in England in the Tudor period?

  • 3rd May 1544 – Thomas Wriothesley was made Lord Chancellor of England
  • 4th May 1547 – Katherine Parr married her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour
  • 6th May 1541 – Henry VIII ordered a new Bible placed in every church
  • 8th May 1559 – Elizabeth I assented to new Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity
  • 9th May 1509 – Henry VII’s body was taken to St Paul’s Cathedral from his place of death at Richmond Palace
  • 10th May 1533 – The Dunstable enquiry opened under Archbishop Cranmer which resulted in the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon
  • 11th May 1500 – Birth of Reginald Pole, later Archbishop of Canterbury under Mary I
  • 13th May 1516 – Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Tudor, married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk at Greenwich Palace
  • 15th May 1567 – Mary Queen of Scots married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
  • 16th May 1532 – Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor of England
  • 17th May 1521 – Execution of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, for treason
  • 19th May 1499 – Katherine of Aragon was married by proxy to Prince Arthur, elder brother of Henry VIII
  • 19th May 1554 – Mary I released Princess Elizabeth from imprisonment in the Tower of London
  • 25th May 1553 – Jane Grey married Guildford Dudley
  • 26th May 1520 – Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon met the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Dover
  • 27th May 1541 – Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, for treason
  • 29th May 1543 – Katherine Parr’s ‘Prayers’ or ‘Meditations’ was published
  • 30th May 1529 – The court at Blackfriars opened to try the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
  • 30th May 1536 – Henry VIII married Jane Seymour

So why Anne Boleyn?

With all these other events happening in May, why the focus on Anne Boleyn? Possibly because her fall was so spectacular and her execution so unexpected. Never before had an English queen been executed, and there was so much controversy surrounding the charges and the men accused with her. I mean, incest? And not just adultery with one man, but five, one her own brother? Unparalleled and shocking and still so many unanswered questions which draw historians back to her time after time, year after year.

Fascination with the unanswered and inherently shocking will never go away, no matter how old the mystery, and this one is now 484 years old.

Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Portrait of Anne Boleyn kept at Hever Castle, Kent

Other posts which discuss Anne Boleyn

Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Why Did Anne Boleyn Fall from Power?

https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/undergrad-dissertation-chapter-1/

In Memory of Anne Boleyn – Why Does She Still Fascinate Us?

https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/in-memory-of-anne-boleyn/

The Legacy of Anne Boleyn

https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-legacy-of-anne-boleyn-died-19th-may-1536/

Book Review – ‘The Mirror and the Light’ by Hilary Mantel


‘The Mirror and the Light’ has to be one of the most anticipated books of 2020. It’s been 8 years since the previous book in the trilogy, ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, was published.

The trilogy as a whole focuses on the life of Henry VIII’s chief minister after the fall of Cardinal Wolsey – Thomas Cromwell. For those who don’t know the background, Cromwell was at the heart of Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s fall and execution, and Henry VIII’s 6-month marriage to Anne of Cleves. There is debate in the historical community over this involvement in these events, but Mantel puts him at the forefront.

It’s taken me around 2 months to read this – not because of any real problem with the book, but because of this COVID-19 outbreak. I’ve seen quite a few people saying that they’ve been struggling to read during lockdown, and I’ve fallen into that hole. Nevertheless, I have finished it finally and I’m really glad I finally got to see Cromwell’s end written in Mantel’s hand.

“Sometimes it is years before we can see who are the heroes in an affair and who are the victims.”

‘The Mirror and the Light’ by Hilary Mantel

I loved the way that the last few chapters were written in particular. For anyone who knows how Cromwell’s life ends (I feel like most people reading this blog probably will, but I still won’t drop any spoilers!), it felt like a different way of ending than those we’ve seen before, either in books or on TV or film. It was a sympathetic way of seeing it, as Mantel’s portrayal of Cromwell has been throughout the series. Whether her view is right or wrong her grasp of the historical context is demonstrated by the tiny details that are included, looking not just at the events established but what is hinted at in letters left behind.

One thing I will say, though, is that this is actually my least favourite of the trilogy; ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ was my favourite. In some ways this felt too long, like it dragged on – I didn’t feel like it had the same pace as the others. The section between Jane’s death in 1537 and the marriage to Anne in 1540 felt a little forced in places, as Mantel tried to fit in everything that happened and could have a bearing on Cromwell’s fall.

Nevertheless, a worthy ending to a series about a man that has often been maligned by history, rightly or wrongly; I’ll leave it to you to make up your own minds.

If you want to read more about the fall of Thomas Cromwell, see my earlier blog post https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/the-fall-of-thomas-cromwell-1540/

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

History Bookshelves


I thought I’d do a walkthrough of my history bookshelves, as pictures on my Instagram of different books that I’ve bought or been sent by publishers are always very popular. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt through the #HistoryGirls community on Instagram, it’s that historians and history lovers are always looking for new reading material!

And, no, before anyone asks, I haven’t read all of these yet. I’m steadily working my way through them. I’ve had some very lovely publishers (The History Press and Pen & Sword Books) send me some complimentary copies for review and these are currently top of my list, though this lockdown has slowed me down rather than speeding me up! I promise, I will get there.

Shelf 1 – Monarchy and Wars of the Roses

This shelf starts with my books on the monarchy in general, before moving onto the Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, the Princes in the Tower, and Richard III.

From left to right:

  • John Burke – An Illustrated History of England
  • David Loades – The Kings and Queens of England
  • J.P. Brooke-Little – Royal Heraldry: Beasts and Badges of Britain
  • The Royal Line of Succession: Official Souvenir Guide
  • Andrew Gimson – Kings and Queens: Brief Lives of the Monarchs Since 1066
  • David Starkey – Monarchy: England and Her Rulers from the Tudors to the Windsors
  • Mike Ashley – A Brief History of British Kings and Queens
  • Elizabeth Norton – She Wolves: The Notorious Queens of England
  • Alison Weir – Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy
  • Peter Ackroyd – History of England Volume 1: Foundation
  • E.F. Jacob – The Fifteenth Century 1399-1485
  • Ian Mortimer – The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
  • Desmond Seward – The Demon’s Brood: The Plantagenet Dynasty That Forged the English Nation
  • David Grummitt – A Short History of the Wars of the Roses
  • Desmond Seward – A Brief History of the Wars of the Roses
  • Sarah Gristwood – Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
  • Michael Jones – Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a Battle
  • John Ashdown-Hill – Elizabeth Widville: Edward IV’s Chief Mistress and the ‘Pink Queen’
  • Amy Licence – Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: A True Romance
  • Jeffrey James – Edward IV: Glorious Son of York
  • Andrew Beattie – Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower
  • Alison Weir – The Princes in the Tower
  • David Horspool – Richard III: A Ruler and His Reputation
  • Philippa Langley & Michael Jones – The Search for Richard III: The King’s Grave
  • Michael Hicks – The Family of Richard III
  • Kristie Dean – The World of Richard III
  • Amy Licence – Richard III: The Road to Leicester
  • Matthew Lewis – Richard III: Fact and Fiction
  • Peter A. Hancock – Richard III and the Murder in the Tower
  • Matthew Lewis – Richard III: Loyalty Binds Me

Shelf 2 – General Tudors and Henry VII

This shelf consists of all my books on the Tudor dynasty as a whole, then just manages to start Henry VII and Elizabeth of York on the end.

From left to right:

  • David Loades – Chronicles of the Tudor Kings
  • Frances Wilkins – Growing Up in Tudor Times
  • Peter Marsden – 1545: Who Sank the Mary Rose?
  • Rosemary Weinstein – Tudor London
  • Peter Ackroyd – The History of the England Volume 2: Tudors
  • Amy Licence – In Bed with the Tudors: The Sex Lives of a Dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I
  • Leanda de Lisle – Tudor: The Family Story
  • David Loades – The Tudors: History of a Dynasty
  • Chris Skidmore – The Rise of the Tudors: The Family That Changed English History
  • Terry Breverton – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Tudors But Were Afraid to Ask
  • Tracy Borman – The Private Lives of the Tudors
  • Timothy Venning – An Alternative History of Britain: The Tudors
  • Kirsten Claiden-Yardley – The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
  • A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits
  • John Matusiak – A History of the Tudors in 100 Objects
  • David Loades – The Tudor Queens of England
  • Alex Woolf – The Tudor Kings and Queens
  • Carola Hicks – The King’s Glass: A Story of Tudor Power and Secret Art
  • J.D. Mackie – The Earlier Tudors 1485-1558
  • Annie Bullen – The Little Book of the Tudors
  • Alison Weir – The Lost Tudor Princess
  • Alison Plowden – The House of Tudor
  • Dave Tonge – Tudor Folk Tales
  • Jane Bingham – The Tudors: The Kings and Queens of England’s Golden Age
  • Elizabeth Norton – The Lives of Tudor Women
  • Ruth Goodman – How to be a Tudor
  • Jasper Ridley – A Brief History of the Tudor Age
  • G.J. Meyer – The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty
  • John Guy – The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction
  • Christopher Morris – The Tudors
  • Phil Carradice – Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor

Shelf 3 – Henry VIII and the Six Wives

This shelf has the rest of my books about Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, all of my Henry VIII books and those overarching books about the Six Wives.

From left to right:

  • Thomas Penn – Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England
  • Alison Weir – Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen
  • Joan MacAlpine – The Shadow of the Tower: Henry VII and His Background
  • David Loades – Henry VIII
  • David Starkey – Henry: Virtuous Prince
  • John Matusiak – Martyrs of Henry VIII: Repression, Defiance, Sacrifice
  • J.J. Scarisbrick – Henry VIII
  • George Cavendish – The Life of Cardinal Wolsey
  • John Guy – The Children of Henry VIII
  • Robert Hutchinson – Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII
  • Alison Weir – Children of England: The Heirs of King Henry VIII
  • John Matusiak – Henry VIII: The Life and Rule of England’s Nero
  • Philippa Jones – The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards
  • Kelly Hart – The Mistresses of Henry VIII
  • Alison Weir – Henry VIII: King and Court
  • David Starkey – The Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities and Politics
  • Robert Hutchinson – Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister
  • Derek Wilson – A Brief History of Henry VIII
  • Robert Hutchinson – The Last Days of Henry VIII
  • Sarah Morris & Natalie Grueninger – In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Amy Licence – The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII
  • Karen Lindsey – Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII
  • Alison Weir – The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Lauren Mackay – Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and His Six Wives Through the Eyes of the Spanish Ambassador
  • Antonia Fraser – The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • David Starkey – Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII

Shelf 4 – Six Wives

This shelf is broken down into books on each of the Six Wives – Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn (by far the biggest section, as you can see!), Jane Seymour (zero books), Anne of Cleves (zero books), Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr.

From left to right:

  • David Loades – The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife
  • Giles Tremlett – Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen
  • Patrick Williams – Katharine of Aragon
  • Paul Friedmann – Anne Boleyn
  • Elizabeth Norton – Anne Boleyn: In Her Own Words and the Words of Those Who Knew Her
  • Alison Weir – The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn
  • Elizabeth Norton – The Boleyn Women: The Tudor Femmes Fatales Who Changed English History
  • David Loades – The Boleyns: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Family
  • Amy Licence – Anne Boleyn: Adultery, Heresy, Desire
  • Lissa Chapman – Anne Boleyn in London
  • Lacey Baldwin Smith – Anne Boleyn: The Queen of Controversy
  • Susan Bordo – The Creation of Anne Boleyn: In Search of the Tudors’ Most Notorious Queen
  • Alison Weir – Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore
  • Carolly Erickson – Mistress Anne
  • Eric Ives – The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
  • Francis Bacon – The Tragedy of Anne Boleyn
  • Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn
  • Retha Warnicke – The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn
  • Josephine Wilkinson – Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress
  • Josephine Wilkinson – Anne Boleyn: The Young Queen to Be
  • Elizabeth Norton – Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII’s Obsession
  • G.W. Bernard – Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions
  • Joanna Denny – Anne Boleyn
  • Marie Louise Bruce – Anne Boleyn
  • Josephine Wilkinson – Katherine Howard: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s Fifth Queen
  • Conor Byrne – Katherine Howard: Henry VIII’s Slandered Queen
  • Robert Hutchinson – House of Treason: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty
  • Linda Porter – Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII

Shelf 5 – The Later Tudors

This shelf goes through Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I, onto Mary Queen of Scots and the English Reformation. As you can probably tell from the number of books on the later Tudors compared to the likes of Henry VIII, my primary focus is on the earlier period.

From left to right:

  • Hester Chapman – The Last Tudor King: A Study of Edward VI
  • Leanda de Lisle – The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey
  • Nicola Tallis – Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
  • Alison Plowden – Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen
  • Anna Whitelock – Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen
  • Phil Carradice – Bloody Mary: Tudor Terror 1553-1558
  • J.A. Froude – The Reign of Mary Tudor
  • Alison Plowden – Elizabethan England
  • David Cecil – The Cecils of Hatfield House
  • Robert Stedall – Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
  • John Guy – Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years
  • Anna Whitelock – Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court
  • Carole Levin – The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power
  • J.B. Black – The Reign of Elizabeth 1558-1603
  • David Birt – Elizabeth’s England
  • Robert Hutchinson – Elizabeth’s Spymaster: Francis Walsingham and the Secret War That Saved England
  • David Starkey – Elizabeth
  • Nicola Tallis – Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
  • Chris Skidmore – Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart
  • Alison Weir – Elizabeth the Queen
  • David & Judy Steel – Mary Stuart’s Scotland
  • Mary Was Here: Where Mary Queen of Scots Went and What She Did There
  • Antonia Fraser – Mary Queen of Scots
  • Lynda Telford – Tudor Victims of the Reformation
  • Diarmaid MacCulloch – Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700
  • Derek Wilson – A Brief History of the English Reformation

Shelf 6 – Palaces and Places

The bottom shelf currently stores largely my guidebooks and BBC History magazines, along with a couple of my more general history books.

From left to right:

  • David Souden – The Royal Palaces of London
  • Christopher Hibbert – Tower of London
  • The Private Life of Palaces
  • Simon Thurley – Houses of Power: The Places That Shaped the Tudor World
  • Suzannah Lipscomb – A Journey Through Tudor England
  • Nigel Jones – Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London
  • Terry Deary – The Peasants’ Revolting … Crimes
  • Merry Wiesner-Hanks – Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe

Guidebooks:

  • Richard III and Henry VII Experience in York
  • Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
  • Framlingham Castle
  • The Jewel Tower
  • The Palace of Westminster
  • Westminster Abbey
  • The Church of Saint Michael at Framlingham
  • St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
  • Tower of London
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • The Mary Rose
  • Imperial War Museum London
  • Windsor Castle
  • Tower Bridge

Are there any books missing that you would thoroughly recommend? Sound off in the comments!

(Historical) Algonquin Table


In 1919 after the First World War Alexander Woollcott returned to New York. Sarah Victor was working in the kitchen of the Algonquin Hotel and Woollcott had a sweet tooth so indulged in their deserts. A group of writers, critics and actors gathered at the hotel to discuss and debate. They dubbed themselves “The Vicious Circle” initially as a joke. The circle lasted for around 10 years and several of its members acquired international reputations.

Below I’ve chosen some historical figures that I’d have at my historical Algonquin table.

Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I

Having mother and daughter in the same room would be amazing – to find out how Anne Boleyn’s fate influenced Elizabeth, and to have the pair be able to talk to each other and see how they interact. Anne died when Elizabeth was aged only 2 ½ so they never really knew each other. That relationship between the two of them has always fascinated me, because Anne had a huge influence on Elizabeth even though she never knew her. Having studied Tudor history for many years Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I were two of the most fascinating figures to me.

Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.

Richard III

Researching the Tudors, which is my favourite period of history, you can’t fail to come across Richard III and his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. From this developed my interest in Richard as a person and a king, and my interest in the mystery of what happened to the Princes in the Tower. One of the questions I would love to ask Richard would be what happened to the princes and was he responsible for their disappearance (and murder?). I would also really want to know about his relationship with his niece, Elizabeth of York, as rumours were that they were romantically involved.

Louis XIV in 1661

Louis XIV of France

Inside the mind of the man who built the Palace of Versailles would be an interesting place to be. A lot of people probably expect his inclusion on the list to be a result of the TV show Versailles. I studied the French Revolution in sixth form, and the whole way that the French monarchy worked and the way that social change resulted in the execution of a monarch really just highlighted to me the earlier French religious wars, which were at their peak in the 17th century. I’ve always been interested in palaces and castles as well, and Versailles is probably one of the most famous in the world.

Oscar Wilde

I’ve always been fascinated by Oscar Wilde – we read ‘A Woman of No Importance’ in sixth form which I loved, and we discussed Wilde’s life in brief, which I found intriguing. I wanted to know more, hence the inclusion of Oscar Wilde in this list. Wilde’s friendships and acquaintances were wide-ranging, and his conviction for gross indecency, imprisonment and early death made him even more famous. His writings include ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. It would be absolutely fascinating to try and understand his emotions and actions.

George Gordon, Lord Byron

After reading ‘Don Juan’ while at sixth form I realised just how interesting Byron’s life was – all I knew prior to studying ‘Don Juan’ was that Byron was the father of mathematician Ada Lovelace and had several affairs, dying in Greece. I never realised that, for example, that Byron married Annabella MIlbanke at Seaham Hall, just south across the Rivers Tyne and Wear from where I live. It is a beautiful place to visit, and I think that the local connection made his life seem more real really. His affair with Caroline Lamb, wife of prime minister, Lord Melbourne, made his life truly scandalous.

Who would you have at a historical Algonquin table? Sound off in the comments!

References

Sharing my Tudor Cross Stitch Project!


Anyone who follows me on Instagram (@tudorblogger) may have been following my progress of this cross stitch project.

I’ve been making a cross stitch pin cushion of Anne Boleyn’s crowned falcon crest. I got the pattern from a friend for my birthday and absolutely adored completing it!

Below is the completed article!

If you love cross stitch and the Tudors go and check out www.sheenarogersdesigns.co.uk where this pattern came from. I’m planning on getting the other 5 pin cushions, one for each wife, and I also really want the tudor rose cushion as well as the six wives! I’m also debating the Tower of London and Hampton Court, but one thing at a time …

In the following gallery you can follow my progress over the week it took me to complete.

Documentary Notes – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with David Starkey – Part 1, Katherine of Aragon


Katherine of Aragon c.1502 by Michael Sittow.
Katherine of Aragon c.1502 by Michael Sittow.
  • 1501 16-year-old Spanish princess stands on brink of destiny to become Queen of England
  • Katherine of Aragon entered old St Paul’s Cathedral 14 November 1501 to marry the Prince of Wales
  • Ally England to the most powerful royal house in Europe
  • Future of upstart Tudor dynasty seemed secure
  • Wedding a mixture of fairy tale and international relations – took place on a raised walkway with bride and groom dressed in white
  • Future Henry VIII stole the show – escorted Katherine along the aisle
  • Prince Arthur (Henry VIII’s elder brother) was the groom
  • Katherine was the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile – one of the great military partnerships of Europe
  • Conquered Granada and began conquest of Latin America
  • 1491 Spanish royal family entered the Alhambra in Granada
  • Katherine’s upbringing was founded on Catholicism, Inquisition and military conquest
  • Faith underpinned her life
  • Katherine’s role model was her mother, Isabella – monarch in her own right
  • Ferdinand and Isabella had an unusually equal relationship
  • Given an impressive education to prepare for queenship – betrothal to Prince Arthur aged 5 knowing she would leave for England aged 16
  • December 1501 Katherine was at Ludlow Castle – Arthur’s seat as Prince of Wales
  • Katherine didn’t find her life entirely strange at Ludlow, still a luxurious palace and a familiar pattern of life
  • Only common language between Katherine and Arthur was Latin
  • Katherine was allowed to keep her own Spanish attendants
  • Couples as young as Katherine and Arthur didn’t necessarily live together straightaway – Katherine was 16 and Arthur aged 14
  • The pair got on very well on their wedding night, so it was decided they would live together straightaway in the hope that Katherine would produce an heir quickly
  • Weather was foul and disease broke out at Ludlow
  • End of March 1502 both Arthur and Katherine were gravely ill
  • 2 April 1502 Prince Arthur died, probably from TB aged 15, married less than 5 months
  • The funeral procession struggled through mud and rain, abandoning horses and using oxen instead to make it
  • Katheirne was left vulnerable by sudden death of Arthur, in strange country
  • Two solutions – return to Spain or marry again in England
  • Henry VII and Ferdinand of Aragon bargained – Katherine would marry Arthur’s younger brother, Henry
Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with David Starkey – Part 1, Katherine of Aragon”

Book Review – ‘Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey’ by Jennifer C. Wilson


On hallowed ground… With over three thousand burials and memorials, including seventeen monarchs, life for the ghostly community of Westminster Abbey was never going to be a quiet one. Add in some fiery Tudor tempers, and several centuries-old feuds, and things can only go one way: chaotic. Against the backdrop of England’s most important church, though, it isn’t all tempers and tantrums. Poets’ Corner hosts poetry battles and writing workshops, and close friendships form across the ages. With the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots, however, battle ensues. Will Queens Mary I and Elizabeth I ever find their common ground, and lasting peace? [Description from Amazon UK]

Kindred Spirits #3

Another great novel from Jennifer Wilson. I absolutely adore this series, and I’m really hoping for a book eventually set around Windsor with Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. I think that would be great. I did thoroughly enjoy this installment in the series though because there were so many different characters from different periods coming together and it was interesting to see how those relationships developed.

This one focuses on the kings and queens, and literary and scientific minds buried or commemorated at Westminster. I loved the developing relationship between Richard III and Henry VII and I understand that this is explored more in the fourth book in the series based in York. As for the relationship between Mary I and Elizabeth I, I can imagine that this is actually how the two would have been in real life had they been raised as siblings rather than rivals for the throne. All siblings argue and fight, but these two took it to the next level.

It’s history but not as we know and Wilson’s knowledge of and passion for medieval and early modern history is obvious as she brings historical figures into the present, without losing the sense of who they were in their own time. One of my favourite moments was when Anne of Cleves snuck onto the Abbey computer to alter her Wikipedia page and any references to ‘Flander’s Mare’, and the reappearance of Richard III, who I loved in ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London’.

This series is so unique, and very cleverly done. You can tell that a great amount of research has gone into the book, as there are little titbits of historical fact, as well as the ghosts trying to dispel, or arguing about, rumours swirling about their lives. It’s really interesting to read and imagine what these historical figures would think about how we view them today, and what they would make of today’s world, incredibly distant from what they knew in their lives. I want more, please, Jennifer!?

Another bonus is that is was written by an author who lives in the same area as me! Well-written and worth a read for anyone with an interest in historical fiction, or historical ghost stories, rumours and a bit of humour thrown in!

Book Review – ‘Anne Boleyn in London’ by Lissa Chapman


Romantic victim? Ruthless other woman? Innocent pawn? Religious reformer? Fool, flirt and adulteress? Politician? Witch? During her life, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s ill-fated second queen, was internationally famous – or notorious; today, she still attracts passionate adherents and furious detractors. It was in London that most of the drama of Anne Boleyn’s life and death was played out – most famously, in the Tower of London, the scene of her coronation celebrations, of her trial and execution, and where her body lies buried. Londoners, like everyone else, clearly had strong feelings about her, and in her few years as a public figure Anne Boleyn was influential as a patron of the arts and of French taste, as the centre of a religious and intellectual circle, and for her purchasing power, both directly and as a leader of fashion. It was primarily to London, beyond the immediate circle of the court, that her carefully ‘spun’ image as queen was directed during the public celebrations surrounding her coronation. [Description from Waterstones]

Thanks to Pen & Sword for the chance to read and review this book.

I did enjoy this book, and I thought that it was quite well-written and engaging. Chapman has a clear and concise tone and way of writing, which makes it easy to read and understand. Anne Boleyn was a divisive figure and this book looks at the positive and negative sides of her, without really choosing a side to fall on. It purports to examine Anne’s rise, queenship and fall through the eyes of the places she stayed in London. There are also sections on Anne’s coronation in 1533, London in general, and court in London.

I wouldn’t call this book so much a look at Anne Boleyn in London, but more a historical biography of Anne Boleyn, focused on her time in London from 1522 and her first court appearance to her death in 1536. I was expecting more about Anne’s involvement in different London locations like Whitehall, Durham House, Westminster, Hampton Court, Hatfield, Eltham, Greenwich and Richmond, but this part I felt was a little lacking. Perhaps the title of the book is a little misleading.

It has obviously been well-researched and there is plenty of reference to the primary sources, as well as to how reliable they may be, and cross-referencing different sources. There is discussion of bias and a look at different points of view about the same events, for example, ambassadors from Italy, the Papal courts, France and Spain. There is a short look at Anne’s earlier life, but it more focused on what we know about her later life.

There is a great selection of images in the centre of the book, varying from photos of places, to sketches, portraits of important people, and artefacts. The captions are all detailed and dated as far as they can be. It is a good selection from across Anne’s life and relates to what is talked about in the text itself. The cover image is also of great interest – it’s a photo of a recreation of a medal from 1534 by Lucy Churchill, one of the only definite images of Anne Boleyn.

This book is worth a read for the historical scholarship, but if you’re expecting a traipse through the London locations that Anne knew, then you might be a little disappointed. Nevertheless, an interesting and well-written biography of Anne Boleyn.

Chapters:

  1. A Walk Through London 1522
  2. ‘Your very humble obedient daughter’ 1501-22
  3. Queen in Waiting 1522-33
  4. The White Falcon Crowned 1533
  5. Earthly Powers: London
  6. Earthly Powers: Court
  7. Anne the Queen 1533-6
  8. Fall 1536
  9. Ever After

Book Review – ‘The Spanish Queen’ by Carolly Erickson


Carolly Erickson 'The Spanish Queen'

When young Catherine of Aragon, proud daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, is sent to England to marry the weak Prince Arthur, she is unprepared for all that awaits her: early widowhood, the challenge of warfare with the invading Scots, and the ultimately futile attempt to provide the realm with a prince to secure the succession. She marries Arthur’s energetic, athletic brother Henry, only to encounter fresh obstacles, chief among them Henry’s infatuation with the alluring but wayward Anne Boleyn. In The Spanish Queen, bestselling novelist Carolly Erickson allows the strong-willed, redoubtable Queen Catherine to tell her own story-a tale that carries her from the scented gardens of Grenada to the craggy mountains of Wales to the conflict-ridden Tudor court. Surrounded by strong partisans among the English, and with the might of Spanish and imperial arms to defend her, Catherine soldiers on, until her union with King Henry is severed and she finds herself discarded-and tempted to take the most daring step of her life. [Description from Waterstones]

I was looking forward to reading this novel as I hadn’t read any of Erickson’s novels before, but I did enjoy her biography of Anne Boleyn. ‘The Spanish Queen’ was well-written and engaging, and the story kept moving, unlike some historical fiction which can be a little dry at times. Perhaps this increased engagement was sheer surprise at how much of the historical record has been changed!

Writers and filmmakers often take historical licence to weave a good story, but I don’t think that the story of Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, needed any additional drama or shock, as it is quite enough of a tale on its own. Some of the changes I really took affront at – like Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon seeing each other again after he left her for good, and Katherine being outside the room when Anne Boleyn gives birth to Elizabeth I. These would never have happened in real life, so I really struggled to believe it in the story as well. Perhaps that’s my downfall with historical fiction – if it’s a period I know so well all I can think about are the historical inaccuracies.

However, I did feel that the story was well-written and the characters came across as incredibly real, even if parts of the story I didn’t find entirely believable. I loved Katherine as a character, and how she inspired so much loyalty. The way that Anne Boleyn was portrayed seemed to be a bit of a caricature of how the people saw her – a witch who bewitched the king into loving her when she wasn’t even particularly pretty. I understand why Erickson portrayed her this way when it was told from Katherine’s point of view.

It was quite an easy read for historical fiction, and I think anyone who has an interest in the Tudor period should give it a go, but just take the history with a pinch of salt. I’m looking forward to reading other novels by Carolly Erickson and seeing how she portrays different historical figures, as looking at the perceptions in this novel I can imagine that there are other people and events that are very different from how I think they would be or what the historical record tells us.

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

In Memory of Anne Boleyn


Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait

As any Tudor historian will know, today, 19 May, is an important day – it marks the anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn on what many now accept as trumped-up charges of adultery, incest and treason. If you need a refresher on the fall of Anne Boleyn, you can read my undergraduate dissertation chapter, published on this blog [https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/undergrad-dissertation-chapter-1/]. There is also a very succinct summary on The Anne Boleyn Files [https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/why-did-anne-boleyn-fall/3967/].

Why does Anne Boleyn continue to fascinate us, nearly 500 years after her death? Well, I came across this excellent summary on History Extra:

“The one thing that’s clear is that Anne, with her intelligence and sexiness, played a part in her own destiny. Her choices in life often make her seem more like a modern person than a Tudor woman. That’s why she’ll continue to fascinate us.” [https://www.historyextra.com/period/tudor/the-six-wives-in-a-different-light/]

Although we shouldn’t look at the 16th century through 21st century eyes, people today still seem to be able to connect with Anne Boleyn because many of her decisions, emotions and feelings we can still sympathise and empathise with today. Many of things that she went through still happen today, though on a much smaller and less deadly scale. The idea that she shaped her own destiny is not one we often associate with Medieval and Early Modern women; the idea still prevails that women were at the mercy of their men folk – their fathers, brothers or husbands. Anne Boleyn demonstrates that not all women fell into that mould, some stepped out and made their own futures. Continue reading “In Memory of Anne Boleyn”