Book Review – ‘Tombland’ by C.J. Sansom


C.J. Sansom 'Tombland'

Spring, 1549. Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos… The nominal king, Edward VI, is eleven years old. His uncle Edward Seymour, Lord Hertford, rules as Protector, presiding over a collapsing economy, a draining, prolonged war with Scotland and growing discontent amongst the populace as the old religion is systematically wiped out by radical Protestants. Matthew Shardlake, meanwhile, is a lawyer in the employ of Lady Elizabeth, the old King’s younger daughter. The gruesome murder of Elizabeth’s distant relative Edith Boleyn soon takes him and his assistant Nicholas Overton to Norwich where he is reunited with Overton’s predecessor Jack Barak. As another murder drags the trio into ever-more dangerous waters, Shardlake finds his loyalties tested as Barak throws in his lot with the exploding peasant rebellion and Overton finds himself prisoner in Norwich castle. Simultaneously, Shardlake discovers that the murder of Boleyn may have connections reaching into both the heart of the rebel camp and of the Norfolk gentry… [Description from Waterstones]

I really enjoyed this book, although the sheer length and weight of it put me off carrying it around in my bag as I normally would! I don’t think it is the best of the Shardlake books, but the characters carry it off, especially the interplay between Shardlake, Barak and Overton, and I also really liked Robert Kett as a character, though I didn’t really expect to, but I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps because of the way the rebellion has been portrayed from the viewpoint of the victors.

I love Matthew Shardlake and Jack Barak as characters, I always have, but in this one I also really liked Nicholas, which I didn’t in the previous book. The interplay between the three was fascinating as they traded views on the rebels, and on the Boleyn murder as well.

I was really intrigued by the murder of John Boleyn’s wife and the involvement of the Lady Elizabeth, although of course this is a fictional case. It’s clever the way that the murder case was intertwined with the Kett rebellion, and how they kept investigating the murder even while dealing with a rebellion and a war essentially. The fear and hope of this time comes across clearly, and you can feel the rising hope and then crushing disappointment of the rebels as their demands are rejected. It really adds a human touch to what is usually just reported in numbers.

It was also interesting to see the Kett rebellion from the point of view of the rebels, as the historical record largely looks at it from the victorious point of view of the royal forces. From a 21st century point of view what the rebels were asking for is what we would consider basic human rights now, but which had to be fought for in the 16th century, and I think these rebels came close to succeeding, had it not been for other rebellions over the religious settlement elsewhere in England. The author essay at the end of the novel adds some historical context to the events of the story, and clearly explains what is fact and what is fiction.

I will keep reading this series just because of the characters, because they are so well-rounded and there is always something that you can connect with, with at least one of the characters, and frankly I just love it!

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

Who Was … William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley?


William Cecil is best known as Secretary of State to Elizabeth I, as well as Lord High Treasurer and Lord Privy Seal. He also served Edward VI as Secretary of State and then moved to look after Princess Elizabeth’s properties before she became Queen. Cecil’s role in the execution of Mary Queen of Scots is also questionable, and he was blamed in part by Elizabeth for it. He was responsible for the building of Burghley House and Theobalds.

Name: William Cecil

Title/s: 1st Baron Cecil of Burghley

Birth: 13 September 1520 in Bourne, Lincolnshire, England

Death: 4 August 1598 at Cecil House, London, England

Buried: St Martin’s Church, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England

Spouse: Mary Cheke ?-1543 & Mildred Cooke 1526-1589

Children: Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter 1542-1623 / Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury 1563-1612 / Anne de Vere, Countess of Oxford 1556-1588 / Francisca Cecil / William Cecil 1559 / William Cecil 1561 / Elizabeth Wentworth 1564-1583

Parents: Richard Cecil c.1495-1553 & Jane Heckington ?-1587

Siblings: Agnes White c.1527-? / Margaret Cave 1523-1553 / Elizabeth Wingfield c.1525-1611

Noble Connections: William Cecil was Secretary of State to both Edward VI and Elizabeth I. He was also Elizabeth I’s closest advisor for most of her reign. He also initially supported the reign of Lady Jane Grey in 1553. He is the founder of the Cecil dynasty which has produced 2 prime ministers including the 3rd Marquis of Salisbury.

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Who Was … Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley?


Thomas Seymour was brother to Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, and to Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector to Edward VI. He married Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr, after Henry’s death, and supposedly then proposed marriage to Princesses Mary and Elizabeth after her death. He was executed on the orders of his brother and nephew (the two Edwards) for treason in 1549.

Name: Thomas Seymour

Title/s: Baron Seymour of Sudeley

Birth: c.1508, probably at Wolf Hall, Wiltshire, England

Death: 20 March 1549 on Tower Hill, London, England

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

Spouse: Katherine Parr 1512-1548

Children: Mary Seymour 1548-?

Parents: Sir John Seymour 1474-1536 and Margery Wentworth 1478-1550

Siblings: John Seymour ?-1510 / Edward Seymour Duke of Somerset c.1500-1552 / Henry Seymour 1503-1578 / Anthony Seymour ?-1528 / Jane Seymour c.1509-1537 / Margery Seymour ?-1528 / Elizabeth Paulet Marchioness of Winchester 1518-1568 / Dorothy Leventhorpe 1515-1552

Noble Connections: His sister, Jane, became Queen of England as the third wife of Henry VIII, and through this marriage he was uncle to Edward VI. His brother, Edward, was Lord Protector during the minority of Edward VI, and he married the dowager queen, Katherine Parr.

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