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/. 

Discussion Questions – ‘Jane Seymour the Haunted Queen’ by Alison Weir


Alison Weir 'Jane Seymour the Haunted Queen'

  1. As Alison Weir says in her author’s note, Jane Seymour remains an enigma. Yet writing a fictional account of her life, while based on deep research, allows a certain freedom as she chooses how to portray Jane’s choices and actions, and her interactions with other historical figures. Do you agree with the Jane Seymour that Alison has created, and did you find her different from the character shown in other fictional interpretations? Do you like her?
  • I quite like the Jane Seymour that Weir has created as it is a very different portrayal from the usually meek and mild Jane that we see in general.
  • I don’t think that Jane could have been as meek and mild as she is usually portrayed as it would have required some strength to marry a man who had his previous wife executed.
  • I do quite like Weir’s Jane – I generally find other fictional interpretations quite boring and bland, so this one was a pleasant change, and it seemed to work for me as well which I wasn’t expecting.
  • I thought Jane showed a strength of character, but was also the kind and gentle person that history accepts Jane was, without making her dull and boring, it’s very clever.
  1. The Haunted Queen opens on a wedding celebration as two prosperous families unite. How is this need for advantageous alliance echoed throughout the novel? As a child, Jane feels safe and content with her loving family and apparently happily matched parents. Do you think this is what Jane strives to reproduce when encouraging Henry to reconcile with his elder daughter? How much do you think her father’s betrayal of the Seymour family affects her own choices?
  • In Tudor England marriages, especially within the nobility and royal families, were largely decided by how advantageous they were in terms of wealth, titles, and connections, so this wasn’t unusual. The Seymour family had connections with many of the great families of England through marriages.
  • I think that Jane coming from such a large family, and having had a seemingly happy childhood does play a role in her wanting Henry to reconnect with his eldest daughter. However, I think that Jane’s religious beliefs also play a part, as I think she sees Mary as the rightful heir over Elizabeth.
  • I think that Jane was completely shocked by her father’s actions, especially the fact that his betrayal was with his daughter-in-law. I think Jane and her siblings saw that their family wasn’t as perfect and happy as they had thought, and Jane wanted to recreate that happy feeling she used to have.
  1. Jane’s desire to become a nun shows a calm determination from a young age. When she finds this is not the life she expected, she sets her heart on a place at court. She might seem a malleable character, yet tends nonetheless to achieve her ambitions. How much do you feel other people, including Jane’s own family, underestimate her quiet strength of character, and do you think it gives her satisfaction to surprise them?
  • Jane is willing to explore her options and test them out – she sets her heart on one thing, finds it isn’t for her and moves the goalposts, which is admirable. She can adapt when she realises something isn’t for her.
  • I think Jane’s parents in particular underestimate her because they are used to having no trouble from her, unlike her brothers and sisters, so they don’t understand her quiet strength.
  • I think it does give Jane satisfaction to surprise people because they expect her to be quiet and malleable but she is really a strong character and it gives people a shock when they realise it.
  • Jane is strong because she can accept that her ambition wasn’t really for her and adjust accordingly – it takes a strong person to admit they’ve made a mistake.

Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘Jane Seymour the Haunted Queen’ by Alison Weir”

Book Review – ‘The King’s Curse’ by Philippa Gregory


The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

Also published on my sister blog bookbloggerish.wordpress.com

The riveting story of Margaret Pole, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, and was one of the few surviving members of the Plantagenet dynasty after the Wars of the Roses. Plantagenet, once carried proudly by Margaret like a crown upon her head, is now, at the end of the 15th century, the most dangerous name in England… [Description from Waterstones]

This book of Philippa Gregory’s came as a pleasant surprise to me. Some of her books really hit the mark and are addictive, but some I struggle to read at all. This wasn’t one I struggled with – the first third of the book in particular I was hooked with, as Margaret Pole struggled to deal with the fate of her brother, Warwick, and the supposed curse enacted on the Tudors for the murder of the Princes in the Tower.

I think that the characterisation of Margaret Pole was interesting as there isn’t really a lot of emphasis on her in fictional portrayals of the Tudors, and there aren’t many biographies either, which is strange as she lived from the reign of Edward IV through Edward V, Richard III, Henry VII, and most of the way through the reign of Henry VIII. Her family was the last of the Plantagenets (aka the White Rose) and she was executed for treason, along with her father, brother and son.

Continue reading “Book Review – ‘The King’s Curse’ by Philippa Gregory”

Henry VIII and his Six Wives – Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 3


Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.
Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.
  • Jane Seymour often overlooked – Henry called her his true love
  • Taught Henry the importance of family, battled to reunite him with his daughter and gave him a son and heir
  • Cruel twist of fate – Jane was snatched from him
  • Death and betrayal turned Henry into a bitter and cruel man
  • Made his most disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves
  • 1536 Henry VIII was aged 44, divorced one wife and other in the Tower awaiting execution for adultery and incest
  • Anne’s infidelity humiliated Henry and cast doubt over his sexual prowess
  • While Anne was in the Tower Henry tried to find her replacement
  • Jane Seymour caught the king’s eye, age 24 and had served both Katherine of Aragon anf Anne Boleyn
  • Virtuous, unassuming and honest
  • Henry sent Jane a letter but she sent it back unopened – wanted to make an honourable marriage
  • Henry’s chivalrous side and aroused his desire
  • Once Henry set his mind on having something he would do anything to get it
  • Henry courted Jane in earnest – before Anne Boleyn was executed Jane was in sight as wife number 3
  • 19 May 1536 Anne Boleyn beheaded on Tower Green
  • Anne still hoped for a last minute reprieve and mercy from Henry who had loved her but Henry had already switched his affections to Jane
  • Henry and Jane were planning their future together
  • Less than 24 hours after Anne’s death Henry and Jane were engaged
  • No record of how Jane reacted to Anne’s beheading but didn’t hesitate to step over Anne to the throne
  • Far steelier than anyone realised
  • 11 days after Anne’s beheading Henry and Jane married, Henry in love
  • Not everyone shared Henry’s affection for Jane
  • Chapuys reported that Jane was of middling stature and no great beauty, proud and haughty, of no great wit
  • Why did Henry marry Jane? Had previously been married to 2 attractive and intelligent women
  • Henry liked Jane because she was so different – compassionate, loyal and do what he told her without question

Continue reading “Henry VIII and his Six Wives – Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 3”

Timetable of Tudor Events


Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
1457 28 January Birth of Henry VII
1466 11 February Birth of Elizabeth of York
1485 22 August Henry VII defeats Richard III at Battle of Bosworth
16 September Birth of Katherine of Aragon
30 October Coronation of Henry VII
1486 18 January Marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
20 September Birth of Prince Arthur
1487 17 June Defeat of Lambert Simnel at Battle of Stoke
1489 28 November Birth of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland
1491 28 June Birth of Henry VIII
1496 18 March Birth of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk
1499 28 November Execution of Edward, Earl of Warwick
1501 14 November Marriage of Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur
1502 2 April Death of Prince Arthur
1503 11 February Death of Elizabeth of York
8 August Marriage of Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland
1509 21 April Death of Henry VII and accession of Henry VIII
11 June Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
24 June Coronation of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
29 June Death of Margaret Beaufort
1511 1 January Birth of Henry, Duke of Cornwall
1513 16 August Battle of the Spurs
9 September Defeat of James IV of Scotland at Battle of Flodden
1515 22 September Birth of Anne of Cleves
1516 18 February Birth of Mary I
1519 15 June Birth of Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy
1520 7 June Beginning of the Field of the Cloth of Gold
24 June End of the Field of the Cloth of Gold
1521 17 May Execution of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
17 October Pope grants Henry VIII title ‘Defender of the Faith’
1533 25 January Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
1 June Coronation of Anne Boleyn
7 September Birth of Elizabeth I
1534 20 April Execution of Elizabeth Barton, Nun of Kent
1535 6 July Execution of Thomas More
1536 7 January Death of Katherine of Aragon
19 May Execution of Anne Boleyn
30 May Marriage of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
23 July Death of Henry Fitzroy
2 October Beginning of the Lincolnshire Rising / Pilgrimage of Grace
1537 12 October Birth of Edward VI
24 October Death of Jane Seymour
1540 6 January Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves
9 July Annulment of marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves
28 July Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine Howard, execution of Thomas Cromwell
1541 27 May Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
1542 13 February Execution of Katherine Howard
1543 12 July Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine Parr
1545 19 July Sinking of the Mary Rose
1546 16 July Execution of Anne Askew
1547 19 January Execution of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
28 January Death of Henry VIII and accession of Edward VI
10 September Battle of Pinkie Cleugh
1548 5 September Death of Katherine Parr
1549 20 March Execution of Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour
1552 22 January Execution of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset
1553 6 July Death of Edward VI
10 July Proclamation of Jane Grey as queen
19 July Overthrow of Jane Grey and accession of Mary I
22 August Execution of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland
1 October Coronation of Mary I
1554 12 February Execution of Jane Grey
25 July Marriage of Mary I and Philip II of Spain
1555 16 October Execution of Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London
1556 21 March Execution of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
1557 16 July Death of Anne of Cleves
1558 17 November Death of Mary I and accession of Elizabeth I
1559 15 January Coronation of Elizabeth I
1587 8 February Execution of Mary Queen of Scots
1588 19 July First sighting of the Spanish Armada off the English coast
29 July Battle of Gravelines and defeat of Spanish Armada
1601 25 February Execution of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
1603 24 March Death of Elizabeth I and accession of James I

Continue reading “Timetable of Tudor Events”

On This Day in History – 2 May


Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait

Event– Arrest of Anne Boleyn

Year– 1536

Location– Greenwich Palace & Tower of London (England)

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn attended the May Day jousts at Greenwich on 1 May 1536. Henry left suddenly without warning and without saying goodbye to Anne. They wouldn’t see each other again.

Anne was with her ladies in her apartments at Greenwich on 2 May 1536 when a delegation from the Privy Council arrived to question her, and then escort her to the Tower of London under arrest. Mark Smeaton, a court musician, had already been arrested and taken to the Tower the day before and had confessed to adultery with Anne, possibly under torture. Henry Norris, Groom of the Stool, arrived at the Tower that morning, and Anne’s brother, George, followed her there just a few hours later.

She was accused of adultery with 5 men, incest with her brother, and plotting the king’s death. She would be condemned to death and executed.

There have been several suggestions as to what led to Anne’s arrest – was it her miscarriage in January 1536? Was it Henry VIII’s newfound love for Jane Seymour? Was it a conspiracy by Thomas Cromwell endorsed by Henry? Was it Anne’s own reckless behaviour?

Further Reading

Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn (1884)

Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (1986)

Retha Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989)

Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn (2009)

Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 3


Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540

Episode 1 – Civil Unrest

  • Henry VIII introduces Ambassador Chapuys to Jane Seymour, like it was her first time meeting him – she had been at court for some years serving both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, so would have met the ambassador before.
  • Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, served as Jane’s principal lady-in-waiting – Jane Boleyn did serve under Jane Seymour, but the latter’s principal lady-in-waiting was actually her sister, Elizabeth Seymour.
  • Francis Bryan first appears in season 3 – he was actually active at court from 1528, and was instrumental in helping Cromwell to bring about the fall of Anne Boleyn, although this isn’t shown.
  • Francis Bryan threatening to beat Mary’s head against the wall until it was as soft as a boiled apple – these words were spoken to Mary, but it was before her mother had even died (season 2) and it wasn’t by Francis Bryan, but by either George Talbot or Thomas Howard, both staunch Boleyn supporters.
  • The women at the Tudor court all seems to wear crowns and tiaras – all women in the Tudor court would have worn hoods rather than these, even queens.

Continue reading “Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 3”

Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Tudors


Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.

Henry VII

Portcullis, greyhound, crowned Tudor rose, crowned hawthorn bush, red dragon

The portcullis is currently the symbol for parliament, an institution of justice and law, which Henry VII did revolutionise during his reign. The portcullis was also representative of his royal blood through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, as it was the symbol of her house.

Red is typically the colour that represents both military strength and magnanimity. The dragon represents valour and protection, and appears on the Welsh flag. This is possibly to demonstrate Henry’s Welsh roots (he was born in Wales, and the Tudor name is Welsh).

The greyhound represents courage, loyalty and vigilance. Henry VII courageously took the crown on the battlefield, and was vigilant for anyone looking to take it away from him. He appears to have been loyal to his wife, and we don’t know for sure of any illegitimate children he may have had, or even any mistresses. Continue reading “Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Tudors”

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”