The Month of May


In the Tudor world, the month of May tends to be seen as Anne Boleyn month where the internet (and me, I have to admit!) goes a bit bananas over Henry VIII’s second wife. Of course, she was executed on the 19th of the month in 1536 on what is now generally accepted as fabricated charges of adultery, incest and treason. Those hellish weeks were immortalised in verse by Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger:

“These bloody days have broken my heart.

My lust, my youth did them depart,

And blind desire of estate.

Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.

Of truth, circa Regna tonat.”

Thomas Wyatt, ‘Circa Regna Tonat’

Those chilling last words translate from the Latin to “thunder rolls around the throne” – well it certainly did when Henry VIII was sitting on the throne.

But what else happened in May in England in the Tudor period?

  • 3rd May 1544 – Thomas Wriothesley was made Lord Chancellor of England
  • 4th May 1547 – Katherine Parr married her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour
  • 6th May 1541 – Henry VIII ordered a new Bible placed in every church
  • 8th May 1559 – Elizabeth I assented to new Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity
  • 9th May 1509 – Henry VII’s body was taken to St Paul’s Cathedral from his place of death at Richmond Palace
  • 10th May 1533 – The Dunstable enquiry opened under Archbishop Cranmer which resulted in the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon
  • 11th May 1500 – Birth of Reginald Pole, later Archbishop of Canterbury under Mary I
  • 13th May 1516 – Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Tudor, married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk at Greenwich Palace
  • 15th May 1567 – Mary Queen of Scots married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
  • 16th May 1532 – Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor of England
  • 17th May 1521 – Execution of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, for treason
  • 19th May 1499 – Katherine of Aragon was married by proxy to Prince Arthur, elder brother of Henry VIII
  • 19th May 1554 – Mary I released Princess Elizabeth from imprisonment in the Tower of London
  • 25th May 1553 – Jane Grey married Guildford Dudley
  • 26th May 1520 – Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon met the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Dover
  • 27th May 1541 – Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, for treason
  • 29th May 1543 – Katherine Parr’s ‘Prayers’ or ‘Meditations’ was published
  • 30th May 1529 – The court at Blackfriars opened to try the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
  • 30th May 1536 – Henry VIII married Jane Seymour

So why Anne Boleyn?

With all these other events happening in May, why the focus on Anne Boleyn? Possibly because her fall was so spectacular and her execution so unexpected. Never before had an English queen been executed, and there was so much controversy surrounding the charges and the men accused with her. I mean, incest? And not just adultery with one man, but five, one her own brother? Unparalleled and shocking and still so many unanswered questions which draw historians back to her time after time, year after year.

Fascination with the unanswered and inherently shocking will never go away, no matter how old the mystery, and this one is now 484 years old.

Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Portrait of Anne Boleyn kept at Hever Castle, Kent

Other posts which discuss Anne Boleyn

Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Why Did Anne Boleyn Fall from Power?

https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/undergrad-dissertation-chapter-1/

In Memory of Anne Boleyn – Why Does She Still Fascinate Us?

https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/in-memory-of-anne-boleyn/

The Legacy of Anne Boleyn

https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-legacy-of-anne-boleyn-died-19th-may-1536/

History Bookshelves


I thought I’d do a walkthrough of my history bookshelves, as pictures on my Instagram of different books that I’ve bought or been sent by publishers are always very popular. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt through the #HistoryGirls community on Instagram, it’s that historians and history lovers are always looking for new reading material!

And, no, before anyone asks, I haven’t read all of these yet. I’m steadily working my way through them. I’ve had some very lovely publishers (The History Press and Pen & Sword Books) send me some complimentary copies for review and these are currently top of my list, though this lockdown has slowed me down rather than speeding me up! I promise, I will get there.

Shelf 1 – Monarchy and Wars of the Roses

This shelf starts with my books on the monarchy in general, before moving onto the Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, the Princes in the Tower, and Richard III.

From left to right:

  • John Burke – An Illustrated History of England
  • David Loades – The Kings and Queens of England
  • J.P. Brooke-Little – Royal Heraldry: Beasts and Badges of Britain
  • The Royal Line of Succession: Official Souvenir Guide
  • Andrew Gimson – Kings and Queens: Brief Lives of the Monarchs Since 1066
  • David Starkey – Monarchy: England and Her Rulers from the Tudors to the Windsors
  • Mike Ashley – A Brief History of British Kings and Queens
  • Elizabeth Norton – She Wolves: The Notorious Queens of England
  • Alison Weir – Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy
  • Peter Ackroyd – History of England Volume 1: Foundation
  • E.F. Jacob – The Fifteenth Century 1399-1485
  • Ian Mortimer – The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
  • Desmond Seward – The Demon’s Brood: The Plantagenet Dynasty That Forged the English Nation
  • David Grummitt – A Short History of the Wars of the Roses
  • Desmond Seward – A Brief History of the Wars of the Roses
  • Sarah Gristwood – Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
  • Michael Jones – Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a Battle
  • John Ashdown-Hill – Elizabeth Widville: Edward IV’s Chief Mistress and the ‘Pink Queen’
  • Amy Licence – Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: A True Romance
  • Jeffrey James – Edward IV: Glorious Son of York
  • Andrew Beattie – Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower
  • Alison Weir – The Princes in the Tower
  • David Horspool – Richard III: A Ruler and His Reputation
  • Philippa Langley & Michael Jones – The Search for Richard III: The King’s Grave
  • Michael Hicks – The Family of Richard III
  • Kristie Dean – The World of Richard III
  • Amy Licence – Richard III: The Road to Leicester
  • Matthew Lewis – Richard III: Fact and Fiction
  • Peter A. Hancock – Richard III and the Murder in the Tower
  • Matthew Lewis – Richard III: Loyalty Binds Me

Shelf 2 – General Tudors and Henry VII

This shelf consists of all my books on the Tudor dynasty as a whole, then just manages to start Henry VII and Elizabeth of York on the end.

From left to right:

  • David Loades – Chronicles of the Tudor Kings
  • Frances Wilkins – Growing Up in Tudor Times
  • Peter Marsden – 1545: Who Sank the Mary Rose?
  • Rosemary Weinstein – Tudor London
  • Peter Ackroyd – The History of the England Volume 2: Tudors
  • Amy Licence – In Bed with the Tudors: The Sex Lives of a Dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I
  • Leanda de Lisle – Tudor: The Family Story
  • David Loades – The Tudors: History of a Dynasty
  • Chris Skidmore – The Rise of the Tudors: The Family That Changed English History
  • Terry Breverton – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Tudors But Were Afraid to Ask
  • Tracy Borman – The Private Lives of the Tudors
  • Timothy Venning – An Alternative History of Britain: The Tudors
  • Kirsten Claiden-Yardley – The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
  • A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits
  • John Matusiak – A History of the Tudors in 100 Objects
  • David Loades – The Tudor Queens of England
  • Alex Woolf – The Tudor Kings and Queens
  • Carola Hicks – The King’s Glass: A Story of Tudor Power and Secret Art
  • J.D. Mackie – The Earlier Tudors 1485-1558
  • Annie Bullen – The Little Book of the Tudors
  • Alison Weir – The Lost Tudor Princess
  • Alison Plowden – The House of Tudor
  • Dave Tonge – Tudor Folk Tales
  • Jane Bingham – The Tudors: The Kings and Queens of England’s Golden Age
  • Elizabeth Norton – The Lives of Tudor Women
  • Ruth Goodman – How to be a Tudor
  • Jasper Ridley – A Brief History of the Tudor Age
  • G.J. Meyer – The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty
  • John Guy – The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction
  • Christopher Morris – The Tudors
  • Phil Carradice – Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor

Shelf 3 – Henry VIII and the Six Wives

This shelf has the rest of my books about Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, all of my Henry VIII books and those overarching books about the Six Wives.

From left to right:

  • Thomas Penn – Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England
  • Alison Weir – Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen
  • Joan MacAlpine – The Shadow of the Tower: Henry VII and His Background
  • David Loades – Henry VIII
  • David Starkey – Henry: Virtuous Prince
  • John Matusiak – Martyrs of Henry VIII: Repression, Defiance, Sacrifice
  • J.J. Scarisbrick – Henry VIII
  • George Cavendish – The Life of Cardinal Wolsey
  • John Guy – The Children of Henry VIII
  • Robert Hutchinson – Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII
  • Alison Weir – Children of England: The Heirs of King Henry VIII
  • John Matusiak – Henry VIII: The Life and Rule of England’s Nero
  • Philippa Jones – The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards
  • Kelly Hart – The Mistresses of Henry VIII
  • Alison Weir – Henry VIII: King and Court
  • David Starkey – The Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities and Politics
  • Robert Hutchinson – Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister
  • Derek Wilson – A Brief History of Henry VIII
  • Robert Hutchinson – The Last Days of Henry VIII
  • Sarah Morris & Natalie Grueninger – In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Amy Licence – The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII
  • Karen Lindsey – Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII
  • Alison Weir – The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Lauren Mackay – Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and His Six Wives Through the Eyes of the Spanish Ambassador
  • Antonia Fraser – The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • David Starkey – Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII

Shelf 4 – Six Wives

This shelf is broken down into books on each of the Six Wives – Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn (by far the biggest section, as you can see!), Jane Seymour (zero books), Anne of Cleves (zero books), Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr.

From left to right:

  • David Loades – The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife
  • Giles Tremlett – Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen
  • Patrick Williams – Katharine of Aragon
  • Paul Friedmann – Anne Boleyn
  • Elizabeth Norton – Anne Boleyn: In Her Own Words and the Words of Those Who Knew Her
  • Alison Weir – The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn
  • Elizabeth Norton – The Boleyn Women: The Tudor Femmes Fatales Who Changed English History
  • David Loades – The Boleyns: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Family
  • Amy Licence – Anne Boleyn: Adultery, Heresy, Desire
  • Lissa Chapman – Anne Boleyn in London
  • Lacey Baldwin Smith – Anne Boleyn: The Queen of Controversy
  • Susan Bordo – The Creation of Anne Boleyn: In Search of the Tudors’ Most Notorious Queen
  • Alison Weir – Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore
  • Carolly Erickson – Mistress Anne
  • Eric Ives – The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
  • Francis Bacon – The Tragedy of Anne Boleyn
  • Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn
  • Retha Warnicke – The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn
  • Josephine Wilkinson – Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress
  • Josephine Wilkinson – Anne Boleyn: The Young Queen to Be
  • Elizabeth Norton – Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII’s Obsession
  • G.W. Bernard – Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions
  • Joanna Denny – Anne Boleyn
  • Marie Louise Bruce – Anne Boleyn
  • Josephine Wilkinson – Katherine Howard: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s Fifth Queen
  • Conor Byrne – Katherine Howard: Henry VIII’s Slandered Queen
  • Robert Hutchinson – House of Treason: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty
  • Linda Porter – Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII

Shelf 5 – The Later Tudors

This shelf goes through Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I, onto Mary Queen of Scots and the English Reformation. As you can probably tell from the number of books on the later Tudors compared to the likes of Henry VIII, my primary focus is on the earlier period.

From left to right:

  • Hester Chapman – The Last Tudor King: A Study of Edward VI
  • Leanda de Lisle – The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey
  • Nicola Tallis – Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
  • Alison Plowden – Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen
  • Anna Whitelock – Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen
  • Phil Carradice – Bloody Mary: Tudor Terror 1553-1558
  • J.A. Froude – The Reign of Mary Tudor
  • Alison Plowden – Elizabethan England
  • David Cecil – The Cecils of Hatfield House
  • Robert Stedall – Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
  • John Guy – Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years
  • Anna Whitelock – Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court
  • Carole Levin – The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power
  • J.B. Black – The Reign of Elizabeth 1558-1603
  • David Birt – Elizabeth’s England
  • Robert Hutchinson – Elizabeth’s Spymaster: Francis Walsingham and the Secret War That Saved England
  • David Starkey – Elizabeth
  • Nicola Tallis – Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
  • Chris Skidmore – Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart
  • Alison Weir – Elizabeth the Queen
  • David & Judy Steel – Mary Stuart’s Scotland
  • Mary Was Here: Where Mary Queen of Scots Went and What She Did There
  • Antonia Fraser – Mary Queen of Scots
  • Lynda Telford – Tudor Victims of the Reformation
  • Diarmaid MacCulloch – Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700
  • Derek Wilson – A Brief History of the English Reformation

Shelf 6 – Palaces and Places

The bottom shelf currently stores largely my guidebooks and BBC History magazines, along with a couple of my more general history books.

From left to right:

  • David Souden – The Royal Palaces of London
  • Christopher Hibbert – Tower of London
  • The Private Life of Palaces
  • Simon Thurley – Houses of Power: The Places That Shaped the Tudor World
  • Suzannah Lipscomb – A Journey Through Tudor England
  • Nigel Jones – Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London
  • Terry Deary – The Peasants’ Revolting … Crimes
  • Merry Wiesner-Hanks – Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe

Guidebooks:

  • Richard III and Henry VII Experience in York
  • Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
  • Framlingham Castle
  • The Jewel Tower
  • The Palace of Westminster
  • Westminster Abbey
  • The Church of Saint Michael at Framlingham
  • St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
  • Tower of London
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • The Mary Rose
  • Imperial War Museum London
  • Windsor Castle
  • Tower Bridge

Are there any books missing that you would thoroughly recommend? Sound off in the comments!

Things You Can Do While in Coronavirus Lockdown


People are having to find new things to do to keep themselves occupied while the world is in lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic. I’ve been a bit remiss on this blog recently through a combination of different things, but I have really been struggling to find things to keep me occupied – here is my list of some of the history-related things that are keeping me sane during this very difficult and unprecedented time.

  • Listening to history podcasts

There are a couple of really great history podcasts that I love, and I am getting my history fix from these, not all Tudor-related.

  1. Talking Tudors – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/talking-tudors/id1413504428

Natalie Grueninger talks with various people about different aspects of the Tudor period; there are currently 67 episodes covering everything from Anne Boleyn to Tudor Christmases, from Anne Clifford to the Golden Hinde.

2. Ten Minute Tudors – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/10-minute-tudors-leanda-de-lisle/id1267848238

Leanda de Lisle discusses the Tudors and Stuarts in easily digestible 10-minute chunks from Henry VI to Charles I, the Gunpowder Plot to the role of royal consort. There are plenty of topics to find something of interest to everyone.

3. The History of England – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-history-of-england/id412308812

David Crowther podcasts from his shed, currently with 286 episodes covering a history of England from the Anglo-Saxons currently up to the accession of Elizabeth I, though further episodes are to come.

4. History Extra – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/history-extra-podcast/id256580326

This is a podcast linked to magazines like BBC History and History Revealed. It deals with historical topics from across time as well as different countries. If you’re going to find something to interest you, you’ll find it here.

Continue reading “Things You Can Do While in Coronavirus Lockdown”

Book Review – ‘Kindred Spirits: York’ by Jennifer C. Wilson


In the ancient city of York, something sinister is stirring… What do a highwayman, an infamous traitor, and two hardened soldiers have in common? Centuries of friendship, a duty to the town, and a sense of mischief – until they realise that someone is trying to bring chaos to their home. Joining forces with local Vikings, the four friends keep an eye on the situation, but then, disaster strikes. Can peace be restored both inside and out of the city walls? [Description from Amazon UK]

This one was definitely darker than the previous books in the series, but I thought it was really good. It was quite nice to see a different side to Wilson’s writing, though I still insist that ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London’ was my favourite! Not your typical ghost story or historical fiction, but really interesting to read in the way that it was written and the conception of the story as well.

The previous books in the series never really tackled how a new ghost is accepted into the ghostly community and how that is dealt with, so that was interesting, as was the method of her death (without giving too much away!). I also liked the idea that ghosts could still be harmed and fade out of existence, I hope that’s dealt with further in other books in the series. I think this one marked a turning point in Wilson’s writing, combining the historical fact and legends with living fictional characters, which has never really happened in any of her previous novels.

I loved the camaraderie between Richard Duke of York, Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, Dick Turpin and Guy Fawkes – characters that I wouldn’t have put together but provided a lot of the drama as well as comedy in this story. They all come from different periods and wouldn’t have known each other in life, so to see the way they banded together in death was totally intriguing, and I think that’s what draws me back to this series in general – it is so unexpected but it manages to work!

You can tell that Wilson has spent time in the locations that she bases her novels in, as well as speaking to those who live there, because there are little snippets of detail that most people wouldn’t know or wouldn’t see. She weaves historical fact into the myths and legends, so you know that there has been a lot of research before pen even got close to paper. Maybe that’s why the ghost side of the story seems logical; because you know the locations are real you can imagine the rest.

This series is so good, and I would recommend it to anyone. The interactions between characters that you wouldn’t normally see in the same book alone make it worth reading, whether you are interested in history or ghost stories or not! More please, Jennifer!

Book Review – ‘Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey’ by Jennifer C. Wilson


On hallowed ground… With over three thousand burials and memorials, including seventeen monarchs, life for the ghostly community of Westminster Abbey was never going to be a quiet one. Add in some fiery Tudor tempers, and several centuries-old feuds, and things can only go one way: chaotic. Against the backdrop of England’s most important church, though, it isn’t all tempers and tantrums. Poets’ Corner hosts poetry battles and writing workshops, and close friendships form across the ages. With the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots, however, battle ensues. Will Queens Mary I and Elizabeth I ever find their common ground, and lasting peace? [Description from Amazon UK]

Kindred Spirits #3

Another great novel from Jennifer Wilson. I absolutely adore this series, and I’m really hoping for a book eventually set around Windsor with Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. I think that would be great. I did thoroughly enjoy this installment in the series though because there were so many different characters from different periods coming together and it was interesting to see how those relationships developed.

This one focuses on the kings and queens, and literary and scientific minds buried or commemorated at Westminster. I loved the developing relationship between Richard III and Henry VII and I understand that this is explored more in the fourth book in the series based in York. As for the relationship between Mary I and Elizabeth I, I can imagine that this is actually how the two would have been in real life had they been raised as siblings rather than rivals for the throne. All siblings argue and fight, but these two took it to the next level.

It’s history but not as we know and Wilson’s knowledge of and passion for medieval and early modern history is obvious as she brings historical figures into the present, without losing the sense of who they were in their own time. One of my favourite moments was when Anne of Cleves snuck onto the Abbey computer to alter her Wikipedia page and any references to ‘Flander’s Mare’, and the reappearance of Richard III, who I loved in ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London’.

This series is so unique, and very cleverly done. You can tell that a great amount of research has gone into the book, as there are little titbits of historical fact, as well as the ghosts trying to dispel, or arguing about, rumours swirling about their lives. It’s really interesting to read and imagine what these historical figures would think about how we view them today, and what they would make of today’s world, incredibly distant from what they knew in their lives. I want more, please, Jennifer!?

Another bonus is that is was written by an author who lives in the same area as me! Well-written and worth a read for anyone with an interest in historical fiction, or historical ghost stories, rumours and a bit of humour thrown in!

Book Review – ‘A Phoenix Rising’ by Vivienne Brereton


Thanks to Vivienne for sending me a copy of this book to read!

Thomas Howard. Head of a sprawling, hot-blooded, sensual brood. Soldier, courtier, politician, a man of great personal charisma. A phoenix rising from the ashes. Will Thomas’s ambitions be realised? Or will the phoenix come crashing down again? Every Howard, male and female, renowned for their good looks and charm, is born to dazzle at court. Luring admirers, even royal ones … like bees to sweet nectar. Equally, each member is expected to restore the family to the very pinnacle of achievement. April 1509. Seventeen-year-old Henry VIII inherits the throne of England. But who sits on the thrones of France and Scotland? Uneasy bedfellows at best. Intrigue and danger stalk the corridors of the royal courts of Europe. Secrets and lies are concealed behind the ancient walls of castles in three lands. [Description from Goodreads]

Series – House of the Red Duke #1

It took me a few chapters to get into this book, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. The descriptions of the characters were really engaging and gave me a very different perspective of people that I had quite set perceptions about, like the Howard family. I was also quite intrigued by Tristan and Nicholas, and their pasts as they were revealed throughout the story. The relationship between the two was interesting as well because they seemed so similar, but really didn’t get on, like people who are too different. It was an intriguing dynamic.

I sometimes struggle with books written from the point of view of several characters, as this one is, but this one worked quite well because it had to be told from the points of view of different characters because it is spread across several countries – England, France and Scotland. The juxtaposition of the three countries was very interesting as they all had people reacting to the same or similar events in different ways depending on where they were and what they believed. It makes for a very intriguing read, though the amount of characters does sometimes throw you.

The addition of Tudor recipes was a nice touch, and demonstrated that the writer had really done her research. From a brief discussion with Vivienne about the book, it seems she has tried the recipes herself at home so it’s not just a theoretical recipe either! There were also nods to primary sources with sections based around these.

For my own personal point of view I really enjoyed the tantalising glimpses of Anne and Mary Boleyn as young girls, and Thomas Boleyn really just starting out on his career, knowing how important the family will become. It was also an interesting perception of Edmund Howard, son of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, as he would become the father of Katherine Howard, Henry VIII’s ill-fated fifth wife. He doesn’t really get much page or screen time in fictional portrayals of the Tudors so it was nice just to get a small glimpse. I’m sure we’ll see more of him in later books as well.

I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series, so don’t wait too long, Vivienne!

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

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/

Book Review – ‘The Western Wind’ by Samantha Harvey


The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

15th century Oakham, in Somerset; a tiny village cut off by a big river with no bridge. When a man is swept away by the river in the early hours of Shrove Saturday, an explanation has to be found: accident, suicide or murder? The village priest, John Reve, is privy to many secrets in his role as confessor. But will he be able to unravel what happened to the victim, Thomas Newman, the wealthiest, most capable and industrious man in the village? And what will happen if he can’t? Moving back in time towards the moment of Thomas Newman’s death, the story is related by Reve – an extraordinary creation, a patient shepherd to his wayward flock, and a man with secrets of his own to keep. Through his eyes, and his indelible voice, Harvey creates a medieval world entirely tangible in its immediacy. [Description from Waterstones] 

I was really looking forward to reading this book when it was chosen as our Book Club read for March 2019, but I was disappointed in it, which I hate saying, but it’s true. It sounded right up my street – a Tudor-set murder mystery. 

What disappointed me most was the characterisation. I really wanted to like John Reve and Herry Carter, but I couldn’t seem to feel anything for them, or any of the other characters. However, some members of the book group loved it (though they were in the minority). One friend commented that she listened to the story on audiobook and really enjoyed it, partly because of the narrator, so I don’t know if it would be better if someone else was reading it; if that made it easier to get into. 

I also got quite annoyed by the way the story was told. The story happens over four days, but it is told backwards, from the fourth day back to the first, which can get confusing, and actually stopped me getting as involved as the story as I like to do with a good book, because I was constantly having to re-focus when I reached a new day. The ending was also a bit of a letdown because it just stopped, rather than having an epilogue, which I felt would have been a boon to tie back into the beginning of the novel, which is the end of the mystery (if that makes sense!). 

I think the story itself had potential, but that potential wasn’t reached, possibly because of the characterisation, or the way in which the story was told back to front. It felt forced at times, as though the author didn’t really know what to fill the gaps with. I was interested in the portrayal of religion throughout the novel, as I think a lot of books with a focus on religion or placed during the Reformation when Henry VIII uprooted the church, so it was interesting to get such an in-depth look at religion before these changes took place, as I think that is less explored.  

I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re looking for something light, but it is interesting for a more in-depth read, especially if you have an interest in Catholicism in England before the Reformation, as it is quite heavy on religion in a lot of places. 

This will also be published on my sister blog https://bookbloggerish.wordpress.com/

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”

Book Review – ‘The Tudor Crown’ by Joanna Hickson 


The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson

When Edward of York takes back the English crown, the Wars of the Roses scatter the Lancastrian nobility and young Henry Tudor, with a strong claim to the throne, is forced into exile. Recently widowed and vulnerable, his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, forges an uncomfortable alliance with Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Swearing an oath of allegiance to York, Margaret agrees to marry the king’s shrewdest courtier, Lord Stanley. But can she tread the precarious line between duty to her husband, loyalty to her son, and her obligation to God and the king? When tragedy befalls Edward’s reign, Richard of York’s ruthless actions fire the ambition of mother and son. As their destinies converge each of them will be exposed to betrayal and treachery and in their gruelling bid for the Tudor crown, both must be prepared to pay the ultimate price… [Description from Waterstones]

I enjoyed this book, but I did find it hard-going in places, as it seemed to be quite repetitive in places so I struggled to get through those bits. However, overall, it was a very engaging read and made me think about things that I hadn’t considered before, like what life was like for English exiles in France in the sixteenth century.

I thought that this book looked interesting because it focused on the lesser-known period of Henry VII’s life – his time in exile in Brittany and France before he became king. Alongside Henry, some chapters are also written from the point of view of his mother, Margaret Beaufort. It’s not something that you really see in novels about this period – everything is focused on Edward IV and Richard III in England rather than what is going on over the Channel.

I thought that the portrayal of Henry VII was particularly engrossing because it is so different to the way he is typically portrayed as a miserly and miserable old man – Hickson makes him handsome, exciting, and a bit of a daredevil, in ways which I didn’t expect. It was Henry’s portrayal that made me want to keep reading, to see what Hickson would do when it came to the Battle of Bosworth. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The portrayal of Margaret Beaufort was also quite different to what I’d expected, because most accounts seem to conclude that the marriage between her and Thomas Stanley was a marriage of convenience, but this novel suggests a deeper relationship, which I liked seeing. As for supporting characters, I really liked Davy Owen and Meg Woodville. Meg in particular was a surprise to me, but a nice one.

The writing itself was descriptive and quite evocative in places, as Henry sights Wales again for the first time in 14 years – that scene in particular was beautifully written and described. The differences between England and France were also painted starkly, as Henry and Margaret both see things differently. Henry in France sees the country through more childlike eyes for a large proportion of the book, while Margaret sees England through more adult and cynical eyes. It created an interesting juxtaposition.

Having read this book, I am looking forward to reading ‘Red Rose, White Rose’ and ‘First of the Tudors’ which I have on my bookshelf ready to read.

Review also available on my sister blog https://bookbloggerish.wordpress.com/