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/

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Book Review – ‘Fatal Throne’ by Candace Fleming


Fatal Throne by Candace Fleming

He was King Henry VIII, a charismatic and extravagant ruler obsessed with both his power as king and with siring a male heir. They were his queens–six ill-fated women, each bound for divorce, or beheading, or death. Watch spellbound as each of Henry’s wives attempts to survive their un-predictable king and his power-hungry court. See the sword flash as fiery Anne Boleyn is beheaded for adultery. Follow Jane Seymour as she rises from bullied court maiden to beloved queen, only to die after giving birth. Feel Catherine Howard’s terror as old lovers resurface and whisper vicious rumours to Henry’s influential advisors. Experience the heartache of mothers as they lose son after son, heir after heir. Told in stirring first-person accounts, Fatal Throne is at once provocative and heart-breaking, an epic tale that is also an intimate look at the royalty of the most perilous times in English history. [Description from Amazon UK] 

Co-written by several authors – Candace Fleming, M.T. Anderson, Stephanie Hemphill, Lisa Ann Sandell, Jennifer Donnelly, Linda Sue Park, and Deborah Hopkinson – and received as a Christmas present. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened this book as, when I have previously read novels co-written with different authors, there is sometimes a jarring effect where the different voices don’t go together and it doesn’t sound like the same story, but that didn’t happen here. I actually really enjoyed it, and I thought that the emotions of each woman in particular came across very strongly, and gave the story an emotional centre – these were real women who got involved with one of the most notorious of British monarchs, Henry VIII. 

I did wonder whether, because the book was quite short to be covering the lives of six women who had quite full lives it might be a bit sparse, but the authors were very clever in the way that they covered the events of the period – it was only revealed what each individual woman would have known, and not what was going on more generally, because it was written from the point of view of each of the women.  

What did let the book down for me slightly was, perhaps because I know the stories of these women so well, there were sections of their lives that I was hoping to see that didn’t make the cut, and little details that added to the story but that didn’t quite ring true. However, generally it was a very enjoyable story, and well-handled. I particularly enjoyed the section told from the point of view of Anne of Cleves, as I think she is often overlooked as she was only queen for 6 months, and replaced by a younger woman. 

I liked the fact that, between each wife we get a short section from the viewpoint of Henry VIII, and it’s clever how much manages to come across in that short section to contrast with the views of the women. I also liked the final page from the point of view of Elizabeth I as she was really Henry VIII’s success story, though he considered her his biggest disappointment. 

This is also published on my other blog https://bookbloggerish.wordpress.com/. 

Talking Tudors Podcast with Natalie Grueninger


Talking Tudors Podcast Logo

‘Talking Tudors’ is a podcast by Natalie Grueninger, author of ‘Discovering Tudor London’ and co-author of ‘In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn’ and ‘In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with Sarah Morris. Along with Kathryn Holeman Natalie has also released two Tudor colouring books – ‘Colouring Tudor History’ and ‘Colouring Tudor History: Queens and Consorts’. 

Natalie interviews guests about their particular interests and the Tudors in general. Each episode ends with “10 To Go” and a “Tudor Takeaway”, and at the beginning often starts with a piece of Tudor-inspired music. 

The first 21 episodes guests and topics are listed below (everything live up to this date 8th February 2019). 

Continue reading “Talking Tudors Podcast with Natalie Grueninger”

Discussion Questions – The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory


The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

  1. The King’s Curse pans over forty years of Lady Margaret Pole’s presence in and around the Tudor court, as she and her family rise and fall from favour with Henry VII and then Henry VIII. How do Lady Margaret, her characteristics, and her goals change over the course of her life at and away from court?
    • Margaret at first is ambitious for herself and her brother, and then her sons, but she comes to realise that what is more important is that they survive.
    • Margaret’s goals change as the people she cares about die generally – her first goal was to help her brother, Edward Earl of Warwick, then Elizabeth of York, and then her husband and sons.
    • As Margaret becomes more experienced she begins to understand the politics of power and how her family came to fall from power, and grows to accept it to an extent.
    • The turning point in Margaret’s thinking comes with the execution of the Duke of Buckingham in 1521, because Margaret thought him to be invincible in a way.
  1. Discuss the meaning of the title, The King’s Curse. What is the actual curse? How does Henry VIII’s belief that he is cursed affect his behaviour? Do you believe that the curse that Elizabeth of York and her mother spoke against the Tudors comes to fruition?
    • I think the title refers to the curse that Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York are said to have enacted against the person who killed the Princes in the Tower.
    • The curse would affect Henry VIII if his mother, Margaret Beaufort, was the one who killed the Princes, as Gregory suggests in ‘The Red Queen’ as well as here.
    • I think in a way Henry VIII is determined to outrun the curse so he begins to kill off anyone with a claim to the throne so that the only heir left is his own son.
    • Eventually the curse does seem to come to fruition as the Tudor line dies out and the crown descends instead through the female line of Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret, and the rulers of Scotland.
  1. Consider how deeply Margaret is affected by the execution of her brother Edward, “Teddy,” the Earl of Warwick. How does this affect her familial loyalty and influence her actions? What does it mean to Margaret to bear the name Plantagenet? What does the White Rose mean to her?
    • I think that, at first, Margaret didn’t believe that Henry VII would execute her brother who was just a naïve boy – from all accounts he was mentally stunted from his time in the Tower.
    • When Margaret has children of her own she becomes even more determined that they won’t suffer the way she and her brother did for their Plantagenet blood.
    • I think at the beginning of the novel Margaret saw the name Plantagenet as marking her out as special and blessed, but towards the end she sees it more as a curse as it pulls apart her family.
    • Even towards the end Margaret believed that the White Rose was the rightful ruler, but she wasn’t willing to risk as much to bring it about.

Continue reading “Discussion Questions – The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory”

Discussion Questions – ‘Three Sisters Three Queens’ by Philippa Gregory


Philippa Gregory 'Three Sisters Three Queens'

  1. Three Sisters, Three Queens opens on the eleven-year-old Princess Margaret, who, while spoiled and materialistic, is a product of her environment. What did you think of the choice to open the novel at this stage of Margaret’s life? What did you think of Margaret? Does it matter if we, the reader, like her?
  • I think it was a conscious choice to show her development through the most traumatic events of her life – the loss of her brother, mother, marriage to the Scots king, and the death of her father and husband.
  • I don’t really like Margaret in this novel – I knew the bare bones of her story but no more, and this doesn’t make me want to read more.
  • Margaret is spoiled all the way through and I don’t think her losses really change her as she continues to just go after what she wants.
  • I don’t think it particularly matters whether we like Margaret or not, as it is about her story and not so much about the character.
  1. Discuss the title of the novel in relation to the characters. Margaret, Katherine, and Mary must navigate their political relationships in addition to their familial relationships. Do you think they would have had stronger bonds with one another without their political responsibility? In what ways did it bring them closer together?
  • Margaret and Mary are sisters by blood and Katherine by marriage so in a sense Katherine is put on the back foot from the beginning.
  • Margaret is isolated from the other two in Scotland while Katherine and Mary are in London.
  • I think they would have had stronger bonds without the politics because Margaret wouldn’t have been sent to Scotland if there wasn’t a need for a political alliance, or Katherine to England, and Flodden wouldn’t have soured relations.
  • Politics brought them together because Katherine and Margaret both lost their husbands, though in different ways.
  • All three enjoyed happy marriages – Margaret to James IV, Katherine to Henry VIII (until it turned sour), and Mary to Charles Brandon.

Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘Three Sisters Three Queens’ by Philippa Gregory”

Henry VIII and his Six Wives – Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 2


Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait

Anne Boleyn was the most notorious mistress in English history

Intelligent, sophisticated, ambitious

Captivated Henry VIII

Together Henry and Anne destroyed Katherine of Aragon

Anne became too confident and paid for the crown with her life

1529 Henry VIII in love with Anne for 3 years

Was lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon – tired of being mistress

Anne promised Henry a living son – the one thing Katherine had failed to give him – but she wouldn’t sleep with Henry until he left his wife

Katherine refused to step aside – loyal wife for 2 decades

Katherine wouldn’t give up Henry without a fight – Katherine asked Henry to allow marriage to be judged in public court

Katherine had chance to save marriage and crown

Katherine had been preparing for this her whole life – not to be crushed by any man

All or nothing

21 June 1529 great hall at Blackfriars priory – struggle made public

Henry and Katherine faced each other in the divorce court in front of public audience

Continue reading “Henry VIII and his Six Wives – Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 2”

Henry VIII and his Six Wives – Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 1


Henry VIII c.1537.
Henry VIII c.1537.

Henry VIII most infamous monarch in English history

38 year reign, 6 marriages

Divorced, beheaded died, divorced, beheaded, survived

Women more than wives – also queens

Formidable individuals, all changed history and shaped Henry VIII and England

What was it really like to be married to Henry VIII?

Passions, obsessions and betrayals

 

Katherine of Aragon

Often overlooked

Warrior queen who taught Henry how to be a king

Love, passions and tragedies that tore them apart

November 14 1501 Katherine prepared for wedding night in London, aged 15

1000 miles from home speaking little English

In front of thousands of people in St Paul’s Cathedral married Prince Arthur, heir to English throne

Katherine was to be English queen Continue reading “Henry VIII and his Six Wives – Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 1”

On This Day in History – 11 June


Event– Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
Year– 1509
Location– Greenwich Palace, England

Katherine of Aragon c.1502 by Michael Sittow.
Katherine of Aragon c.1502 by Michael Sittow.

The wedding of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon isn’t as well-known as their very public divorce. Katherine was the widow of Henry’s older brother, Arthur, who had died in 1502. Henry would later allege that this was an impediment from which the Pope couldn’t dispense.

Katherine and Henry had been betrothed for 6 years by the time that they married, and it wasn’t certain that they would marry even after the betrothal. When Katherine’s mother, Isabella of Castile, died Katherine was seen as less valuable on the marriage market as she was no longer the product of a united Spain. Henry VII began to look elsewhere for a bride for his son.

When Henry VII died in 1509 Katherine’s fortunes changed overnight and the marriage negotiations were successfully brought to an end in May 1509. The marriage licence was issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, on 8 June 1509.

The marriage was a private ceremony in the queen’s closet at Greenwich Palace on 11 June 1509 with just a couple of witnesses in attendance. Katherine was aged 23 and Henry just 18 – she was beautiful still and he was in his prime. The marriage wasn’t only a love match (it was rumoured that Henry wanted Katherine when she was married to Arthur), but a political one as well.

As soon as the wedding itself was over, preparations were made for their joint coronation which happened just a couple of weeks later.

Further Reading
Amy Licence, Catherine of Aragon: an Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife (2016)
Garrett Mattingley, Catherine of Aragon (1960)
David Starkey, Six Wives: the Queens of Henry VIII (2004)
Giles Tremlett, Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen (2011)
Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)

Timetable of Tudor Events


Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
1457 28 January Birth of Henry VII
1466 11 February Birth of Elizabeth of York
1485 22 August Henry VII defeats Richard III at Battle of Bosworth
16 September Birth of Katherine of Aragon
30 October Coronation of Henry VII
1486 18 January Marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
20 September Birth of Prince Arthur
1487 17 June Defeat of Lambert Simnel at Battle of Stoke
1489 28 November Birth of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland
1491 28 June Birth of Henry VIII
1496 18 March Birth of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk
1499 28 November Execution of Edward, Earl of Warwick
1501 14 November Marriage of Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur
1502 2 April Death of Prince Arthur
1503 11 February Death of Elizabeth of York
8 August Marriage of Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland
1509 21 April Death of Henry VII and accession of Henry VIII
11 June Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
24 June Coronation of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
29 June Death of Margaret Beaufort
1511 1 January Birth of Henry, Duke of Cornwall
1513 16 August Battle of the Spurs
9 September Defeat of James IV of Scotland at Battle of Flodden
1515 22 September Birth of Anne of Cleves
1516 18 February Birth of Mary I
1519 15 June Birth of Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy
1520 7 June Beginning of the Field of the Cloth of Gold
24 June End of the Field of the Cloth of Gold
1521 17 May Execution of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
17 October Pope grants Henry VIII title ‘Defender of the Faith’
1533 25 January Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
1 June Coronation of Anne Boleyn
7 September Birth of Elizabeth I
1534 20 April Execution of Elizabeth Barton, Nun of Kent
1535 6 July Execution of Thomas More
1536 7 January Death of Katherine of Aragon
19 May Execution of Anne Boleyn
30 May Marriage of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
23 July Death of Henry Fitzroy
2 October Beginning of the Lincolnshire Rising / Pilgrimage of Grace
1537 12 October Birth of Edward VI
24 October Death of Jane Seymour
1540 6 January Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves
9 July Annulment of marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves
28 July Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine Howard, execution of Thomas Cromwell
1541 27 May Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
1542 13 February Execution of Katherine Howard
1543 12 July Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine Parr
1545 19 July Sinking of the Mary Rose
1546 16 July Execution of Anne Askew
1547 19 January Execution of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
28 January Death of Henry VIII and accession of Edward VI
10 September Battle of Pinkie Cleugh
1548 5 September Death of Katherine Parr
1549 20 March Execution of Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour
1552 22 January Execution of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset
1553 6 July Death of Edward VI
10 July Proclamation of Jane Grey as queen
19 July Overthrow of Jane Grey and accession of Mary I
22 August Execution of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland
1 October Coronation of Mary I
1554 12 February Execution of Jane Grey
25 July Marriage of Mary I and Philip II of Spain
1555 16 October Execution of Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London
1556 21 March Execution of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
1557 16 July Death of Anne of Cleves
1558 17 November Death of Mary I and accession of Elizabeth I
1559 15 January Coronation of Elizabeth I
1587 8 February Execution of Mary Queen of Scots
1588 19 July First sighting of the Spanish Armada off the English coast
29 July Battle of Gravelines and defeat of Spanish Armada
1601 25 February Execution of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
1603 24 March Death of Elizabeth I and accession of James I

Continue reading “Timetable of Tudor Events”

Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Tudors


Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.

Henry VII

Portcullis, greyhound, crowned Tudor rose, crowned hawthorn bush, red dragon

The portcullis is currently the symbol for parliament, an institution of justice and law, which Henry VII did revolutionise during his reign. The portcullis was also representative of his royal blood through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, as it was the symbol of her house.

Red is typically the colour that represents both military strength and magnanimity. The dragon represents valour and protection, and appears on the Welsh flag. This is possibly to demonstrate Henry’s Welsh roots (he was born in Wales, and the Tudor name is Welsh).

The greyhound represents courage, loyalty and vigilance. Henry VII courageously took the crown on the battlefield, and was vigilant for anyone looking to take it away from him. He appears to have been loyal to his wife, and we don’t know for sure of any illegitimate children he may have had, or even any mistresses. Continue reading “Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Tudors”