She Wolves – Episode 2 – Isabella of France and Margaret of Anjou 14.03.2012


Isabella of France 15th Century Portrait
Isabella of France 15th Century Portrait

1308 Isabella of France became Queen of England age 12
Little more than a pawn in power plays between England and France
Isabella and Margaret both known as the “she wolves of France”
Isabella daughter of the King of France – living embodiment of the treaty between England and France, keen sense of her own majesty
What she found different to what she expected
First public appearance – coronation
Piers Gaveston carried the king’s crown into the abbey and sat with him at the coronation feast
Her place at Edward II’s side had been taken by Gaveston
Edward had given some of the wedding presents to Gaveston from the French nobles
Three people in the marriage
King’s relationship with his nobles was souring because of his relationship with Gaveston – king offers leadership and security and nobles protect the realm
Nobles don’t think the king is doing what he should Continue reading “She Wolves – Episode 2 – Isabella of France and Margaret of Anjou 14.03.2012”

Discussion Questions – ‘The Forbidden Queen’ by Anne O’Brien


'The Forbidden Queen' by Anne O'Brien
‘The Forbidden Queen’ by Anne O’Brien

1) What do you think of Katherine? What appeals to you about her and what doesn’t?

I quite liked Katherine, and I grew to like her more and more as the novel went on. The progress of her personality and actions was inspiring, and it was good to see her develop through so much – three relationships, two marriages, crowning of her son as king, leaving her home and family for a strange land, and the restrictions placed on her during her widowhood. I thought that at the beginning Katherine was a little naïve and hopeful. She didn’t really understand the court and hadn’t been brought up that way. She was still a child at heart. After she was widowed she had no choice but to grow up. What appeals about her is her freeness with herself, particularly in her relationships, though I can understand why in the Middle Ages it was frowned upon. I also appreciated her zest for life when with Edmund Beaufort, and how she carried it through to her relationship with Owen Tudor. What doesn’t appeal about Katherine is her naivety – she must have realised that she was a prize to be won when Edmund Beaufort was courting her.

2) Apart from Katherine, who is your favourite character in the book and why?

Aside from Katherine, I think my favourite character in this novel is Owen Tudor, because he seems to be one of the more genuine characters. I like the contradictions of Warwick’s personality, however, as well. Nevertheless, Owen is still my favourite. I love the contradictions within his character and his heritage. I’ve never really read any Welsh history so this was interesting to me, and I am definitely more interested in that side of things now. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘The Forbidden Queen’ by Anne O’Brien”

Potted History of Tudor Palaces


Greenwich Palace no longer stands, but it was the birthplace of Henry VIII, as well as both of his daughters, Mary I and Elizabeth I. It used to be known as the Palace of Placentia and was built in 1433 by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, in the reign of the pious King Henry VI. The Palace fell into disrepute during the English Civil War, and was later demolished and replaced with the Greenwich Hospital (now the Old Royal Naval College) in the late 17th century.

Eltham Palace was the childhood home of Henry VIII and was built in 1295. Henry stayed here even as Prince of Wales, rather than go to Ludlow. At one point, it was bigger even than Hampton Court Palace. Even as Henry got older and when he became king, he continued to prize Eltham, putting some of its features into Hampton Court, and he remodelled Eltham itself 1519-22. Only small sections now remain as it fell into disrepute after Henry’s death. Continue reading “Potted History of Tudor Palaces”

Comparing Monarchs: does it work? Does it add anything to our knowledge? Why do we do it?


Elizabeth I Darnley Portrait 1575
Elizabeth I Darnley Portrait 1575

Monarchs are often compared to each other, but does it really accomplish anything, and if so, what? Why do we do it? Elizabeth I and Mary I are often compared to each other as sisters and queens. Elizabeth II is often compared to her namesake, Elizabeth I. The wives of Henry VIII are also compared to each other, particularly the ones which replaced each other like Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour.

Comparing monarchs means that individual monarchs are not taken on the basis of their own ideas and achievements, but instead compared with either a namesake or a predecessor. Individual biographies are no longer as popular as they once were as comparative histories come to the fore. Possibly some of the best known historical comparisons are between the wives of Henry VIII, on which countless books have been written of them as a unit. The most notable of these are by the likes of David Starkey, Antonia Fraser and Alison Weir. It means that Anne Boleyn is compared to both Katherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour; and that Anne Boleyn’s supposed guilt is compared to the established guilt of Katherine Howard. These comparisons won’t ever stop. Continue reading “Comparing Monarchs: does it work? Does it add anything to our knowledge? Why do we do it?”

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”

Spotlight: Henry VI


Name: Henry VI

Title/s: King of England / King of France

Birth / Death: 6 December 1421 – 21 May 1471

Spouse: Margaret of Anjou 1430-1482

Children: Edward, Prince of Wales 1453-1471

Parents: Henry V 1386-1422 & Catherine of Valois 1401-1437

Siblings: None

Noble Connections: The future Henry VII was his nephew, through his mother’s second marriage to Owen Tudor. He was a direct descendent of Edward III through John of Gaunt and had a claim to the French throne through his mother.

Continue reading “Spotlight: Henry VI”

‘The Virgin Widow’ by Anne O’Brien – Discussion Questions


'Virgin Widow' by Anne O'Brien (2010).
‘Virgin Widow’ by Anne O’Brien (2010).

I recently finished reading ‘The Virgin Widow’ by Anne O’Brien, a novel about the life of Anne Neville, up until the birth of her son, Edward of Middleham. I really liked it, and look forward to reading ‘The Kingmaker’s Daughter’ by Philippa Gregory to compare. Below are the discussion questions from the back of the book. You also get lists of questions in historical books by Philippa Gregory and Emily Purdy to help you understand the story. I have posted my answers to the ones from ‘The Virgin Widow’ below, and I hope you’ll post what you think, and whether you disagree with any of my answers.

1. A wife was regarded as little more than a possession of her husband. To what extent does the life of Anne Neville and her family support this view of marriage in the fifteenth century?

Women weren’t thought to be able to think on their own and form their own views. In a lot of ways they were the property of their husband because they were expected to obey him and follow his commands and share his beliefs, even if she didn’t truly believe in them. For example, the Countess of Warwick was expected to support her husband in his rebellion and do what he commanded, though in the novel it is obvious that she doesn’t approve of him upsetting the possibilities for their daughters. The Duke of Clarence marries Isobel and immediately begins summoning her after him when he leaves a room. Isobel is expected to obey. And when he ditches Warwick in favour of his brother, Edward IV, Isobel was also expected to leave her father. Anne’s two marriages were much the same. Her marriage to Edward of Lancaster meant that she was expected to support the Lancastrian cause when she had been a Yorkist her entire life. She was under the thumb of Edward’s mother, Margaret of Anjou, who watched her to make sure she didn’t disgrace herself or disobey and contact the York brothers. She was essentially a hostage for her father’s good behaviour. In her second marriage to Richard, she is still expected to follow her husband’s example, although in the court she is allowed a bit more freedom, and she is willing to follow Richard’s example, rather than being forced. Continue reading “‘The Virgin Widow’ by Anne O’Brien – Discussion Questions”

Selection of Images from The White Queen


Selection of Images from The White Queen

'The White Queen' starring Rebecca Ferguson and Max Irons on DVD.
‘The White Queen’ starring Rebecca Ferguson and Max Irons on DVD.

I have posted a selection of images from The White Queen television series over on my Facebook page, so go take a look.

BEWARE: For those in America, the images I’ve uploaded do contain images from all 10 episodes, most of which have not been aired in the US yet. It’s up to you whether or not to look …

The Tudor Rose


The Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York, alter combined to create the iconic Tudor Rose.
The Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York, alter combined to create the iconic Tudor Rose.

The Tudor rose is, of course, the most poignant symbol of the Tudor dynasty and what it stood for. The visuals are very well-known – the red rose and the white rose together. But what does it actually stand for and what is the significance of it?

Jean Plaidy in her novel, The Red Rose of Anjou imagines a scene where the roses come into play. It goes as follows:

“[Somerset] moved away from Buckingham’s restraining hand and plucking one of the red roses, the symbol of the House of Lancaster since the days of Edmund, Earl of Lancaster and brother of Edward the First, he cried out: ‘I pluck this red rose. The red rose of Lancaster. I am for Lancaster and the King.’

Warwick turned away and immediately picked a white rose – the symbol of York – the white rose worn by the Black Prince himself. He held the rose on high. ‘I pluck this white rose,’ he said. ‘The white rose of York. Let every man among us choose his rose. Continue reading “The Tudor Rose”