Book Review – 'Anne Boleyn in London' by Lissa Chapman


Romantic victim? Ruthless other woman? Innocent pawn? Religious reformer? Fool, flirt and adulteress? Politician? Witch? During her life, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s ill-fated second queen, was internationally famous – or notorious; today, she still attracts passionate adherents and furious detractors. It was in London that most of the drama of Anne Boleyn’s life and death was played out – most famously, in the Tower of London, the scene of her coronation celebrations, of her trial and execution, and where her body lies buried. Londoners, like everyone else, clearly had strong feelings about her, and in her few years as a public figure Anne Boleyn was influential as a patron of the arts and of French taste, as the centre of a religious and intellectual circle, and for her purchasing power, both directly and as a leader of fashion. It was primarily to London, beyond the immediate circle of the court, that her carefully ‘spun’ image as queen was directed during the public celebrations surrounding her coronation. [Description from Waterstones]

Thanks to Pen & Sword for the chance to read and review this book.

I did enjoy this book, and I thought that it was quite well-written and engaging. Chapman has a clear and concise tone and way of writing, which makes it easy to read and understand. Anne Boleyn was a divisive figure and this book looks at the positive and negative sides of her, without really choosing a side to fall on. It purports to examine Anne’s rise, queenship and fall through the eyes of the places she stayed in London. There are also sections on Anne’s coronation in 1533, London in general, and court in London.

I wouldn’t call this book so much a look at Anne Boleyn in London, but more a historical biography of Anne Boleyn, focused on her time in London from 1522 and her first court appearance to her death in 1536. I was expecting more about Anne’s involvement in different London locations like Whitehall, Durham House, Westminster, Hampton Court, Hatfield, Eltham, Greenwich and Richmond, but this part I felt was a little lacking. Perhaps the title of the book is a little misleading.

It has obviously been well-researched and there is plenty of reference to the primary sources, as well as to how reliable they may be, and cross-referencing different sources. There is discussion of bias and a look at different points of view about the same events, for example, ambassadors from Italy, the Papal courts, France and Spain. There is a short look at Anne’s earlier life, but it more focused on what we know about her later life.

There is a great selection of images in the centre of the book, varying from photos of places, to sketches, portraits of important people, and artefacts. The captions are all detailed and dated as far as they can be. It is a good selection from across Anne’s life and relates to what is talked about in the text itself. The cover image is also of great interest – it’s a photo of a recreation of a medal from 1534 by Lucy Churchill, one of the only definite images of Anne Boleyn.

This book is worth a read for the historical scholarship, but if you’re expecting a traipse through the London locations that Anne knew, then you might be a little disappointed. Nevertheless, an interesting and well-written biography of Anne Boleyn.

Chapters:

  1. A Walk Through London 1522
  2. ‘Your very humble obedient daughter’ 1501-22
  3. Queen in Waiting 1522-33
  4. The White Falcon Crowned 1533
  5. Earthly Powers: London
  6. Earthly Powers: Court
  7. Anne the Queen 1533-6
  8. Fall 1536
  9. Ever After

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/

Guest Blog Post – Anne of Cleves


I have been busy writing over the last few weeks and today a post has been published over on The Lassicist blog, part of Women’s History Month.

I decided to write on someone who is often overlooked in Tudor history – Anne of Cleves. The rumour of her as a Flander’s Mare persists, but she was so much more.

Head over to the blog and have a look, along with the other posts in this series.

https://thelassicist.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/womens-history-month-2019-anne-of-cleves/

Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein 1539
Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein 1539

How Has the Study of History Developed for the Digital Age?


Map of British Isles by Gerardus Mercator 1596
Map of British Isles by Gerardus Mercator 1596

The study of history has inevitably changed over the last few decades, and no doubt will continue to change because of the introduction of new technologies such as computers and the internet. It is now much easier to share things online than it used to be, and this means that more people can access a wider range of information.

Many archives and journals now publish online, meaning that more people have access to the sources and information that they provide. For example, online databases like British History Online (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/) brings together a selection of sources from different periods, and makes them available for anyone to look at without having to travel down to archives in London or Edinburgh or Dublin. For my own analysis of British History Online see https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/review-of-sources-on-british-history-online/. The National Archives operate similarly and I’m sure many others do as well. Even the BBC have audio clips on a wide range of subjects from people who were there, and even old newsreels. Continue reading “How Has the Study of History Developed for the Digital Age?”

On This Day in History – 11 June – Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon


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

Event– Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon

Year– 1509

Location– Greenwich Palace, England

The wedding of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon isn’t as well-known as their very public divorce. Katherine was the widow of Henry’s older brother, Arthur, who had died in 1502. Henry would later allege that this was an impediment from which the Pope couldn’t dispense.

Katherine and Henry had been betrothed for 6 years by the time that they married, and it wasn’t certain that they would marry even after the betrothal. When Katherine’s mother, Isabella of Castile, died Katherine was seen as less valuable on the marriage market as she was no longer the product of a united Spain. Henry VII began to look elsewhere for a bride for his son.

When Henry VII died in 1509 Katherine’s fortunes changed overnight and the marriage negotiations were successfully brought to an end in May 1509. The marriage licence was issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, on 8 June 1509.

The marriage was a private ceremony in the queen’s closet at Greenwich Palace on 11 June 1509 with just a couple of witnesses in attendance. Katherine was aged 23 and Henry just 18 – she was beautiful still and he was in his prime. The marriage wasn’t only a love match (it was rumoured that Henry wanted Katherine when she was married to Arthur), but a political one as well.

As soon as the wedding itself was over, preparations were made for their joint coronation which happened just a couple of weeks later.

Further Reading

  • Amy Licence, Catherine of Aragon: an Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife (2016)
  • Garrett Mattingley, Catherine of Aragon (1960)
  • David Starkey, Six Wives: the Queens of Henry VIII (2004)
  • Giles Tremlett, Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen (2011)
  • Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)

Areas of Study in History


History in Words.
History in Words.

PERIODICAL
This involves examining history within a certain period, i.e. Tudor period 1485-1603 or Victorian period 1837-1901. This could also be by century, for example, looking at the 20th century, or even decade i.e. 1940s. The ways historians divide history down into periods reflect judgments made on the past.
* Sample questions:-
1) How successful were Tudor rebellions between 1485 and 1603?
2) What were the most pivotal events in the Cold War 1945 – 1991 and why?
3) How did England grow into an industrial nation throughout the 19th century?
* Sample literature:-
1) A.N. Wilson, ‘The Victorians’
2) David Loades, ‘The Tudors: History of a Dynasty’
3) Henry Freeman, ‘Roman Britain: a History from Beginning to End’

GEOGRAPHICAL
Geographical history can involve examining history in a particular country, region or city. For example, local history is becoming more popular, like the history of north-east England or the history of Glasgow. Landscapes, weather and the availability of supplies all affect the people who live and work in a particular place. Continue reading “Areas of Study in History”

On This Day in History – 15 January – Coronation of Elizabeth I


Elizabeth I Coronation Portrait c.1610 Copy of a Lost Original

Event- Coronation of Elizabeth I

Year- 1559

Location- Westminster Abbey, London

On this day, 15th January 1559, Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey.  She acceded to the throne on the death of her half-sister, Mary I, in November 1558. It has often been said that John Dee predicted the date for Elizabeth’s coronation, as being a prophetic day, but this is still debated among historians.

The day before, on her procession from the Tower of London to Westminster, Elizabeth had been faced with several pageants, one of which showed her father, Henry VIII, and mother, Anne Boleyn, together again after the latter’s execution in 1536.

At the coronation itself, it was said that Elizabeth took communion behind a curtain and that few people could tell how Catholic or Protestant the service was. Other historians disagree and claim that Elizabeth left the abbey before communion. She was crowned by Owen Oglethorpe, a junior bishop from Carlisle – the Archbishop of Canterbury was dead and the Archbishop of York claimed to be unwell. On exiting the abbey, she held the orb and sceptre in one hand and the imperial crown in the other.

It was alleged that Elizabeth I spent £16,000 of crown money on her coronation, and the London city fathers also contributed. The people celebrated and Elizabeth kept the hearts of her people throughout most of her reign.

Further Reading

  • Christopher Haigh, Elizabeth I (2001)
  • Anne Somerset, Elizabeth I (2002)
  • David Starkey, Elizabeth (2001)
  • Alison Weir, Elizabeth the Queen (2009)

Tips for writing a good history essay for school, college or university


What are the tips and tricks to get the best grade you can?

The best tip that I can give for writing a good history essay is to analyse. Don’t just tell the story. You need to say why people could have done or believed what they did. What were the consequences?

For example:-

Narrative: Henry VIII had six wives and three children by different wives.

Analytical: Henry VIII had six wives because he was determined that women couldn’t rule a country. He needed a male heir to secure the succession and avoid a repeat of the Wars of the Roses. He got rid of his first two wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, because they only had a daughter each. It was his third wife, Jane Seymour, who finally presented him with a son, and it was with her that Henry VIII chose to be buried at Windsor because of her success in his eyes. Continue reading “Tips for writing a good history essay for school, college or university”

Book Review – ‘Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: a True Romance’ by Amy Licence


Amy Licence 'Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville'Amy Licence, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: a True Romance (Stroud: Amberley Publishing, 2016) ISBN 978-1-4456-3678-8

First off, apologies, Amy, for being so tardy on my review when you so kindly sent me a review copy! I wanted to get it just right.

I first fell in love with Amy Licence’s writing after reading her book ‘In Bed with the Tudors’. She has a knack of writing in a different way about things that have been written before, but she can make it seem completely new and exciting.

It’s only relatively recently that I’ve developed an interest in the Wars of the Roses. I’ve generally thought it too complicated, but it is books like this one that have helped to change my mind – it’s engaging and gives you the basics without feeling like you’re back in school!

But this book isn’t just about the battles and conflicts of the Wars of the Roses, it’s about something simpler – the love of a man for a woman. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: a True Romance’ by Amy Licence”

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”