Six Documentaries to Watch During Lockdown


I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries during lockdown so I thought I’d pull together some of my favourites here – not all Tudor so if you’re looking for something different, look no further!

If there are any that you’ve particularly enjoyed watching, please leave a comment, always looking for new things to watch and learn from!


David Starkey’s ‘Monarchy’

Episodes: 16

Period: Anglo-Saxons to Queen Victoria

David Starkey explores how the British monarchy has evolved over time, from the patchwork of counties that made up Anglo-Saxon England to how they united under a single king, working through the monarchs right up to Queen Victoria. It focuses less on the monarchs themselves but rather how their actions informed the idea of monarchy.

David Starkey has been involved in some controversy over the last few years with some of his comments hitting the news headlines, so I was a bit wary of including this one on my list, but I don’t think that some of his personal opinions affect the historical research that went into this documentary series. I have this on DVD and have watched it several times, making me interested in aspects of our history that I haven’t been before.

Simon Schama’s ‘A History of Britain’

Episodes: 15

Period: Stone Age to Modern Day

Simon Schama takes a different approach to our history than David Starkey, looking less at the monarchs and more at the general population and how life changed for them from the Stone Age to the modern day through times that have shaped our history.

I have this on DVD as I thought it looked different to other histories of Britain, and I wanted something definitive to widen my area of interest and my knowledge. This certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s not completely definitive, being unable to cover the entire history of Britain in 15 episodes, but it covers some of the most pivotal moments in our history in detail, drawing extensively on primary source research.

Continue reading “Six Documentaries to Watch During Lockdown”

Discussion Questions – ‘The Lady of the Rivers’ by Philippa Gregory


Janet McTeer as Jacquetta of Luxembourg in 'The White Queen' (2013)
Janet McTeer as Jacquetta of Luxembourg in ‘The White Queen’ (2013)

  1. Jacquetta’s first main influence is her great-aunt, Jehanne of Luxembourg, who tells her: ‘A woman who seeks great power and wealth has to pay a great price.’ Why do you think she says this to her niece? Was she right, and what sorts of power would she have been referring to? Do we see the women in the story exercising other kinds of power?
  • Women could have power in several ways – they could have sexual power over men if they chose to use it, they could have political power like Margaret of Anjou, or they could have the power evidenced by respect and love, which is the kind of power Jacquetta has.
  • Margaret of Anjou notably tries to harness political power when her husband, Henry VI, is unable to due to sickness or madness (depending how you want to describe it), but she is called a she-wolf because of it.
  • Women should only have power in the 15th century when it is allowed to them by men who have control of their own country and their wits, and supported by a council of men i.e. Katherine of Aragon and Katherine Parr given the regency under Henry VIII when he’s at war.
  • Women exercise power over men through their sexual wiles and their looks – it is one of the only ways women could influence men in the 15th century without seeming out of place or being called a witch. It has long been suggested that Margaret of Anjou used “pillow talk” to persuade Henry VI.
  1. Joan of Arc is absolutely certain that her voices come from God. Jacquetta is much less sure where hers are from, saying, ‘I never think of it as a gift coming from God or the Devil.’ What sort of voices do you think they are hearing, and do their different beliefs affect the future of either character?
  • I think Jacquetta just accepts it as part of her life, and part of her legacy from the water goddess Melusina, whereas Joan of Arc sees it as a religious calling to spread the word of god.
  • From what I understand of the Woodville family from reading this book, ‘The White Queen’ and ‘The White Princess’ it seems like Jacquetta and her daughter and granddaughter get a sense when members of their family die or are in danger, and seem to be able to call up the weather or a curse to punish their enemies.
  • Joan of Arc is one of those famous figures from history who claims to have a direct line to god and she is able to influence those around her because they believe in the fact that she has a direct line to god – it is these “visions” that bring about her downfall.
  • Jacquetta is accused of witchcraft by the Earl of Warwick, but cites the protection of Margaret of Anjou in order to protect herself. I think there would have been an uprising had Warwick had Jacquetta executed because she was such a beloved figure on both sides of the divide.
  1. As the story opens, England is ruled by the boy king, Henry VI, as his father has died following his famous conquests in France. Was Henry V an impossible act to follow? What kinds of pressure were there on the young Henry VI? And how might things have been different if his father had not died when he did?
  • I think Henry V was a hard act to follow, even for a man let alone a baby, and Henry VI was influenced by those around him as he grew up, and quite often pushed to one side.
  • The advisors and protectors were pushing Henry VI to be like his father, so I think it provoked an opposite reaction from him, and he determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue a different path.
  • Things could have been different if Henry VI hadn’t died when he did, because it would have given a chance for Henry VI to come into his majority without the rigours of kingship on his small shoulders.
  • England would have been ruled by a strong king who could lead England, rather than by a regency council without strong leadership. Perhaps the Wars of the Roses would never have erupted if Henry V hadn’t died when he did, as they broke out due to the weakness of Henry VI.

Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘The Lady of the Rivers’ by Philippa Gregory”

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”

Book Review – ‘Lancaster and York’ by Alison Weir


Alison Weir, ‘Lancaster and York: the Wars of the Roses’ (London: Vintage Books, 2009) Paperback, ISBN 978-0-099-54017-5

Alison Weir 'Lancaster and York'
Alison Weir ‘Lancaster and York’

Title: The title is very apt, as the book covers mainly the first part of the Wars of the Roses – when Lancaster and York were at war, and not the latter part where the war was between York itself (Richard III and the Princes in the Tower or Edward IV vs. the Duke of Clarence). It focuses on the role of Margaret of Anjou, and the conflicts between her and the Duke of York, which led to York triumphing over Lancaster.

Preface: The preface / introduction is quite short, but gives a quick overview of the main focal points of the Wars of the Roses, and explains where the idea came from to write about the Wars of the Roses when most of her books are written about the Tudors. Weir discusses the meagre amount of surviving sources, but then fails to build on that in the book itself.

Citations: There aren’t really any citations to speak of, which makes it difficult to track where certain information comes from. All there is is a general bibliography at the end, with a couple of family trees, which are useful as the period is a complicated one. What would probably have been more useful even than citations, particularly for a reader relatively new to the period, would have been a list of who was on the side of York and who was on the side of Lancaster. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘Lancaster and York’ by Alison Weir”

Spotlight: Margaret of Anjou


Name: Margaret of Anjou

Title/s: Queen of England / Princess of Naples / Queen of France

Birth / Death: 23 March 1430 – 25 August 1482

Spouse: Henry VI of England 1421 – 1471

Children: Edward of Lancaster 1453 – 1471

Parents: Rene, King of Naples 1409 – 1480 & Isabella of Lorraine 1400 – 1453

Siblings: John II Duke of Lorraine 1425 – 1470 / Rene 1426 – ? / Louis of Anjou 1427 – 1443 / Nicolas 1428 – ? / Yolande Duchess of Lorraine and Bar 1428 – 1483 / Charles Count of Guise 1431 – 1432 / Louise 1436 – ? / Anne 1437 – ? Continue reading “Spotlight: Margaret of Anjou”

Book Review – ‘The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503’ by J.L. Laynesmith


JL Laynesmith 'The Last Medieval Queens'
JL Laynesmith ‘The Last Medieval Queens’

J.L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), Paperback, ISBN 978-0-199-27956-2

Title: The lives of the last Medieval Queens – this book looks at Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville and Elizabeth of York. However, I think it could also have done with looking more at Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Margaret Beaufort because, although they weren’t Queens, sometimes they almost had the same power as them, and definitely influenced the Queens themselves.

Preface: The introduction gives a broad overview of the lives of the women, and why these particular women are so fascinating. It gives a brief rundown of their lives, and how they link to each other. It also introduces other people who influenced the lives of the Queens and the monarchy, like the Earl of Warwick the “kingmaker”, the Duke of York, the Earl of Salisbury, the children of the queens, and the kings that the queens were married to. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503’ by J.L. Laynesmith”

My Notes from the third part of ‘The Plantagenets’ shown 31.03.2014 on BBC


October 1399 8th Plantagenet king Richard II taken down the Thames – 1400 found starved to death.

Henry IV in the National Portrait Gallery from the 16th century
Henry IV in the National Portrait Gallery from the 16th century

Henry of Bolingbroke – Henry IV = right of kings undermined and whole dynasties collapsed – turned against each other and ended with the destruction of the dynasty.
1380s peasant’s revolt – Richard II forced to flee to the Tower.
Trigger = tax for war against the French.
Revolt against king’s councillors.
Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, seized and executed. The day after Richard met with the rebels, led by Watt Tyler. Tyler killed in a scuffle by the mayor of London.
Richard single-handedly halted rebellion = god-given right to rule.
Royal displays of kingship. Continue reading “My Notes from the third part of ‘The Plantagenets’ shown 31.03.2014 on BBC”

Book Review – ‘Stormbird’ by Conn Iggulden


Conn Iggulden 'Stormbird' 2013
Conn Iggulden ‘Stormbird’ 2013

Conn Iggulden, Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (London: Penguin Books, 2014), Paperback, ISBN 978-0-718-196-349

Genre/s: Historical / Action / Adventure

Setting: Calais, Anjou and Burgundy (France) & London (England)

Characters: Henry VI / Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York / Margaret of Anjou / Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick / William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk / Derry Brewer / Charles VII of France / Cecily Neville / Thomas Woodchurch / Yolande of Anjou / Jack Cale

Storyline: The story revolves around the reign of Henry VI, and his marriage to Margaret of Anjou, encompassing the Jack Cale rebellion against said marriage, and the rebel invasion of London. The fate of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, is also explored. The particular focus is on the rebellion, and the war with France at the same time. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘Stormbird’ by Conn Iggulden”

Potted History of the Key Players in the Wars of the Roses


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

Henry VI was the son of the warrior king Henry V, the victor of Agincourt, but he wasn’t a warrior – he was quiet and pious. Later in life it is said that he lost his wits. He was deposed by Edward IV in 1460 and murdered in the Tower in 1471. He was the last Lancastrian king, married to Margaret of Anjou, who ruled in his stead.

Margaret of Anjou from an illuminated manuscript c. 1445 by Talbot Master
Margaret of Anjou from an illuminated manuscript c. 1445 by Talbot Master

Margaret of Anjou was the wife of Henry VI. Part of the marriage agreement was that the English gave up Maine in France. She gave birth to one son, Edward, who was killed in battle in 1471, and she lost her husband the same year. She was the mother-in-law of Anne Neville, through the latter’s marriage to her son, the future wife of Richard III. Continue reading “Potted History of the Key Players in the Wars of the Roses”

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