‘Kindred Spirits: Ephemera’ by Jennifer C. Wilson


“The afterlife is alive with possibility”

I have loved Jennifer Wilson’s writing since I discovered her books while working at my local library. When I found out that this was a collection of short stories, I was a little disappointed – I really wanted a story set at Windsor Castle with Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville and Henry VIII, but hopefully that will come in the future.

There are characters both old and new including Richard III, John of Gaunt, and Charles Brandon. The variation of characters from so many different periods is one of the things that I love about this series, and this short story collection is brilliant in that respect.  It was interesting to see how the different personalities interacted, particularly the likes of Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, who hadn’t seen each other since Katherine left court in 1531, as well as Edward IV and Richard III, who hadn’t seen each other since Edward IV died in 1483.

Locations include York, Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace, and St Paul’s Cathedral. There are so many important historical locations in Britain, and what I really liked about this collection was that we got to visit so many of them.

My favourite story in the collection is the one at Hampton Court where the six wives of Henry VIII get together. I really wanted the story to be longer actually, but I don’t think it would have been as good had it been longer. It was brilliantly done the way it was. There is a great cliff-hanger at the end, which I really hope lays the foundation for the next book in the series.

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

Documentary Notes – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with David Starkey – Part 2, Anne Boleyn


These notes are from part 2 of ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ documentary with David Starkey. For part 1 on Katherine of Aragon, click here.

Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
  • 1529 Henry VIII in love but not with his wife Katherine of Aragon but with Anne Boleyn
  • Henry’s determination to divorce Katherine and marry Anne plunges England into turmoil
  • What kind of woman who can inspire a king to commit bigamy?
  • Anne’s enemies called her a shrew, whore, and bigamist
  • Remarkable woman who risked everything, including her life, to get the man and crown
  • Anne grew up in Kent, highly intelligent daughter of a courtier and diplomat
  • Her father, Thomas Boleyn, was ambitious
  • Anne left Hever Castle for the court of the Archduchess Margaret in the Netherlands
  • Anne’s first letter home written in French
  • Had been expected to learn French and courtly ways and expected to be a rising star at the English court on her return
  • Plenty of opportunity to perfect her French when she moved to the French court
  • More French than English on her return to the English court
  • Anne began a lady-in-waiting to the English queen
  • Not beautiful by the standards of the day but was witty, confident, intelligent and an excellent dancer
  • Court regulation required that the queen’s ladies should be good-looking
  • Court entertainment was all about love – it was the theme of pageants, plays and poetry
  • Lord Percy was soon head over heels in love with Anne – she aimed high and scored
  • Percy’s family blocked the match
  • 1525 Anne was being serenaded by the poet Thomas Wyatt – tantalising and untouchable, as he withdrew when he realised Anne had another admirer in the king
  • King couldn’t command the love of a woman like Anne Boleyn
  • Anne had her own plans – Henry’s marriage to Katherine had lost its passion and it hadn’t provided a son
  • She tried to get the throne, learning from the experience of her sister, Mary, and held out
  • Mary gave the king her favours and was discarded
  • When Anne was away from court Henry wrote love letters to her – she gave him the tough treatment and didn’t answer his letters
  • She deliberately stayed away from court
  • When Anne did write to the king, she gave him mixed signals
  • 1526 Henry was driven wild by Anne’s behaviour while she was at Hever
  • In December Henry asked Anne for a straight answer and she replied on New Year’s Day 1527 with a jewel of a storm-tossed maiden
  • Anne surrendered to Henry, but only as his wife and not as his mistress
  • Henry thus had to divorce Katherine, his wife of 18 years
  • Anne was asking Henry to take on Katherine, her friends and supporters, and the universal Catholic church
Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with David Starkey – Part 2, Anne Boleyn”

Top 5 Tudor Non-Fiction Books


I sometimes get asked what the best books are on the Tudors, or what my favourites are. I’ve decided to list my top 5 here with a short review, trying to mix different topics and styles, though my focus is primarily on the political history and the figures involved in the period rather than the social or military history that I know some people prefer. My favourite books also seem to be largely related to women, as I am fascinated by the ideas of gender and power in the Tudor period.

'The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn' by Eric Ives, first published in 2004.

TITLE – The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

AUTHOR – Eric Ives

FIRST PUBLISHED – 1986

REVIEW – Eric Ives’s offering about Anne Boleyn is one of the first books I read about Anne Boleyn when I was working on my undergraduate History dissertation. It gripped me from the very start as his arguments are clear and concise, and written in a way that is easy to just get sucked into. He talks about aspects of her life that were overlooked before this point like portraiture, her childhood, and her relationship with her daughter. Ives does Anne justice by not just focusing on the obvious angles.

'Tudor the Family Story' by Leanda de Lisle (2013)

TITLE – Tudor: The Family Story

AUTHOR – Leanda de Lisle

FIRST PUBLISHED – 2013

REVIEW – I was excited when this book first came out, as it was the most comprehensive history of the Tudor dynasty up to this point. I wasn’t disappointed as it provided detailed biographies of the key figures including those prior to Henry VII taking the throne like his father, grandparents, and assorted other relatives. The book was excellently researched with an extensive bibliography – I’m tempted to call it a Tudor Bible! A must-read for any Tudor historians to keep on their bookshelf.

Continue reading “Top 5 Tudor Non-Fiction Books”

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!

Documentary Notes – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with David Starkey – Part 1, Katherine of Aragon


Katherine of Aragon c.1502 by Michael Sittow.
Katherine of Aragon c.1502 by Michael Sittow.
  • 1501 16-year-old Spanish princess stands on brink of destiny to become Queen of England
  • Katherine of Aragon entered old St Paul’s Cathedral 14 November 1501 to marry the Prince of Wales
  • Ally England to the most powerful royal house in Europe
  • Future of upstart Tudor dynasty seemed secure
  • Wedding a mixture of fairy tale and international relations – took place on a raised walkway with bride and groom dressed in white
  • Future Henry VIII stole the show – escorted Katherine along the aisle
  • Prince Arthur (Henry VIII’s elder brother) was the groom
  • Katherine was the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile – one of the great military partnerships of Europe
  • Conquered Granada and began conquest of Latin America
  • 1491 Spanish royal family entered the Alhambra in Granada
  • Katherine’s upbringing was founded on Catholicism, Inquisition and military conquest
  • Faith underpinned her life
  • Katherine’s role model was her mother, Isabella – monarch in her own right
  • Ferdinand and Isabella had an unusually equal relationship
  • Given an impressive education to prepare for queenship – betrothal to Prince Arthur aged 5 knowing she would leave for England aged 16
  • December 1501 Katherine was at Ludlow Castle – Arthur’s seat as Prince of Wales
  • Katherine didn’t find her life entirely strange at Ludlow, still a luxurious palace and a familiar pattern of life
  • Only common language between Katherine and Arthur was Latin
  • Katherine was allowed to keep her own Spanish attendants
  • Couples as young as Katherine and Arthur didn’t necessarily live together straightaway – Katherine was 16 and Arthur aged 14
  • The pair got on very well on their wedding night, so it was decided they would live together straightaway in the hope that Katherine would produce an heir quickly
  • Weather was foul and disease broke out at Ludlow
  • End of March 1502 both Arthur and Katherine were gravely ill
  • 2 April 1502 Prince Arthur died, probably from TB aged 15, married less than 5 months
  • The funeral procession struggled through mud and rain, abandoning horses and using oxen instead to make it
  • Katheirne was left vulnerable by sudden death of Arthur, in strange country
  • Two solutions – return to Spain or marry again in England
  • Henry VII and Ferdinand of Aragon bargained – Katherine would marry Arthur’s younger brother, Henry
Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with David Starkey – Part 1, Katherine of Aragon”

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 – ‘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.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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 – ‘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/. 

Book Review – ‘Bloody Mary: Tudor Terror 1553-1558’ by Phil Carradice


Phil Carradice - Bloody Mary Tudor Terror

Phil Carradice, Bloody Mary: Tudor Terror 1553-1558 (Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books, 2018) ISBN 9781526728654

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 was pleasantly surprised when I saw how short this book was, that it managed to cram in so much detail. There are so many little details throughout the book that I didn’t expect. It’s a great introduction to the reign of Mary I, and especially her role in the Catholic Counter-Reformation in England in the 1550s. There is lots of detail about the Protestant martyrs of her reign who I didn’t really know much about to be honest, but I do now!

I especially enjoyed the introductory section about Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and the section about Thomas Cranmer’s recantation and execution. John Foxe’s book lists many of the people who were killed under Mary I as Protestant martyrs, and their beliefs and executions are covered in a surprising amount of detail. I haven’t yet got around to reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, just dipping in and out for assignments and blog posts, but this makes me want to spend more time with it.

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