Book Review – ‘An Alternative History of Britain: Tudors’ by Timothy Venning


An Alternative History of Britain Tudors - Timothy Venning

Timothy Venning, An Alternative History of Britain: the Tudors (Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books, 2014) ISBN 9781783462728

Thank you to Pen and Sword Books for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I had been wanting to read this book for a while, so when I was given the chance to get a review copy, I was thrilled! I also wasn’t disappointed, as I thought that this book was thoroughly engaging and I just wanted to keep reading. The chapters each deal with a separate issue running chronologically through the Tudor period, though I could have done with more around Henry VII and the rebellions against his reign – what could have happened had one of them succeeded?

The sections I found particularly interesting were the ones on Henry VIII’s tiltyard accident of January 1536 and Jane Grey. They are two instances which have always really interested me, as it has been suggested that Henry’s tiltyard accident resulted in a change of personality and, had Jane Grey managed to hold onto the throne, would we still have had Queen Elizabeth I? There are questions stemming from questions in this book, and it covers a lot of the major possibilities, while also intertwining some of the more minor decisions that were made.

Continue reading “Book Review – ‘An Alternative History of Britain: Tudors’ by Timothy Venning”

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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/. 

International Women’s Day – Favourite Tudor Women


On International Women’s Day I thought I would give the lowdown on some of my favourite Tudor ladies – Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Jane Grey and Elizabeth I. All were queen in one way or another, and were strong successful women in their own ways. Here I look at some of the highlights of their lives, and why I enjoy studying them so much. 

Tudor Women

Anne Boleyn 

Anne Boleyn seems to be a popular choice for people’s favourite wife of Henry VIII or favourite Tudor queen in general. But why? She is controversial, inspired great devotion alive and dead, and was (it is widely accepted) innocent of the crimes for which she was executed. However, Katherine Howard was also executed, and it isn’t sure that she was entirely guilty of that which she was accused of, but she doesn’t get the same kind of following or academic interest.  

For me, what makes Anne Boleyn so interesting is that she was a woman, not quite out of her time, but looking to the future. She realised that women were capable of so much more than had been believed, and she had seen women take power and rule – namely Margaret of Austria – and women who enjoyed learning and bettered themselves – Marguerite of Navarre. 

Anne has taught me to be myself and not to be afraid to show my intelligence as she did. 

Continue reading “International Women’s Day – Favourite Tudor Women”

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”

Henry VIII and his Six Wives – Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 4


Katherine Howard miniature by Hans Holbein.
Katherine Howard miniature by Hans Holbein.
  • After 4 failed marriages Henry VIII married Katherine Howard
  • She had a guilty secret
  • Final wife Katherine Parr more obedient but not all she seemed
  • 1539 Henry VIII aged 48, first 3 wives dead
  • Henry stuck in a loveless marriage with Anne of Cleves – called her fat and ugly, he was so disgusted he couldn’t have sex with her
  • Big problem for Henry and the Tudor dynasty
  • The king only had one son, and child deaths were common
  • Just months into his marriage to Anne Henry began to look around for her replacement but didn’t look far
  • 1539 aged 17 Katherine Howard arrived at the Tudor court – came from a rich and powerful noble family
  • Henry fell in love at first sight
  • Katherine was everything Anne wasn’t – made him feel manly
  • Henry saw Katherine as virginal “blushing rose without a thorn”
  • Within months of arriving at court it is believed Katherine became Henry’s lover
  • Spring 1540 Henry was seen making regular trips day and night to Katherine’s house, and planned to wed her
  • Anne had to go – just 6 months after the wedding Henry left Anne
  • Used her previous engagement to a French nobleman to annul the marriage – she was paid off and sent away
  • 28 July 1540 Henry and Katherine married, just 2 weeks after the annulment of Henry’s previous marriage
  • Being queen was everything Katherine dreamed it would be
  • Henry showered Katherine with jewels and showed her off at banquets and hunting expeditions
  • Henry in love and lust, drunk with desire – sexual problems disappeared

Continue reading “Henry VIII and his Six Wives – Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 4”

Who’s Who of Tudor History


Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

Aragon, Katherine of = First Queen to Henry VIII, marriage annulled 1533, died 1536.

Ashley, Kat = Governess and close friend to Elizabeth I from her childhood. Died 1565.

Aske, Robert = One of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. Executed 1537.

Beaufort, Margaret = Mother to Henry VII. Outlived her son and saw the accession of her grandson, Henry VIII.

Blount, Bessie = Henry VIII’s mistress, and the only one to give him an acknowledged illegitimate child – Henry Fitzroy.

Boleyn, Anne = Second Queen to Henry VIII, executed 1536 for adultery and incest.

Boleyn, George = Brother to Henry VIII’s second Queen. Accused of adultery and incest with his sister. Executed 1536.

Boleyn, Mary = Sister of Henry VIII’s second Queen. Mistress of Henry VIII. Died 1543.

Brandon, Charles  Duke of Suffolk and best friend to Henry VIII. Married Henry VIII’s sister, Mary. Died 1546. Continue reading “Who’s Who of Tudor History”

Book Review – ‘VIII’ by H.M. Castor


H.M. Castor 'VIII'
H.M. Castor ‘VIII’

H.M. Castor ‘VIII’ (Dorking: Templar Publishing, 2011) Paperback, ISBN 978-1-8487-74995

Genre/s: Historical Drama

Setting: Tower of London, Hampton Court and Richmond (London, England)

Characters: Henry VIII / Prince Arthur / Henry VII / Elizabeth of York / Katherine of Aragon / Cardinal Thomas Wolsey / Anne Boleyn / Jane Seymour / Mary I / Archbishop Thomas Cranmer / Thomas More / Elizabeth I / Katherine Parr / Katherine Howard / Edward VI / Anne of Cleves / Thomas Cromwell

Storyline: From Henry VIII’s childhood until his death in 1547. The novel covers Henry’s imagined childhood in some detail, looking at the death of his mother and brother, his accession to the throne, his quest to beget a son to succeed him and the relationships with his wives. There is also a spectre in the background haunting him. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘VIII’ by H.M. Castor”

How Far was Henry VIII Justified in Getting Rid of Four of His Wives?


Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

Katherine of Aragon

The reasons for the divorce of Katherine of Aragon have been much debated, both at the time and in the hundreds of years since. It seems that the primary reason for Henry’s wish to be rid of Katherine was that she hadn’t presented him with the male heir. She only had a daughter, Mary. Henry VIII wanted a son to follow him and secure the dynasty.

The second reason, which was used as an excuse to end the marriage, was that Katherine had been married to Henry’s brother, Arthur. There was debate over whether Katherine’s first marriage was consummated, because if so, then the passage in Leviticus could apply. You shouldn’t marry your brother’s widow or you’ll be childless. To Henry, no son was as good as being childless. Continue reading “How Far was Henry VIII Justified in Getting Rid of Four of His Wives?”

UPDATE: English Monarchs and When They Ruled


This post is an update on a previous post. Instead of just listing the monarchs and consorts and when they ruled I have also listed the legitimate children of each union and their title.

William I (1066 – 1087) … Consort – Matilda of Flanders

Children – Robert, Duke of Normandy d. 1134

Richard d. 1075

William II d. 1100

Henry I d. 1135

Adelaide d. 1113

Cecily d. 1127

Matilda d. 1086

Constance, Duchess of Brittany d. 1090 Continue reading “UPDATE: English Monarchs and When They Ruled”

Tudor-Related Books


So I’ve put together a list of all of the Tudor and Wars of the Roses related books I want. The ones scored through are the ones I’ve already got or read. Any opinions on any of them, or are any of them better than others? Any opinions would be greatly appreciated as I don’t think it’s sensible to splurge and buy them all at once!

Ackroyd, Peter, ‘Foundation’ (2011)

Ackroyd, Peter, ‘London: the Biography’ (2001)

Ackroyd, Peter, ‘Tudors’ (2012)

'Anne Boleyn: Queen of Controversy' by Lacey Baldwin Smith (2013).
‘Anne Boleyn: Queen of Controversy’ by Lacey Baldwin Smith (2013).

Baldwin Smith, Lacey, ‘Anne Boleyn’ (2013)

Baldwin Smith, Lacey, ‘Catherine Howard’ (2010)

Baldwin Smith, Lacey, ‘Henry VIII’ (2012)

Baldwin Smith, Lacey, ‘Treason in Tudor England: Politics and Paranoia’ (2006)

Bernard, George W., ‘Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions’ (2010)

Bernard, George W., ‘The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church’ (2007) Continue reading “Tudor-Related Books”