Book Review – ‘Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England’ by Carol McGrath


Thank you to Pen and Sword Books for the gifted copy of this book to review.

I really enjoyed this book. It was so interesting, and I learnt quite a lot about the way the Tudors thought about sex and the roles of women and gender. It is irrevocably tied in to the Reformation and changing religious views across the long Tudor century. This is all discussed throughout as McGrath dives into several different areas.

The perceptions of sex are discussed including when you should and shouldn’t have sex, words related to sex, and some humorous sections, as there was bound to be when discussing sex! It’s a great mix of informative and entertaining which I really enjoyed. It’s not too ‘heavy’ to read and quite a concise and clear read.

It offers a different view on Tudor England, though there is still quite a lot of focus on Henry VIII and his relationships with his wives. There could have been more on the general populace, and maybe looking more at court cases about women i.e. scolding, adultery, fornication, and children.

The main reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars was because I felt there was too much focus on the royal history, as well as a few errors as below:

  • Page 12/64 – Thomas Howard referred to as Earl of Norfolk when he was Duke of Norfolk
  • Page 27 – It was said that Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur were married at Westminster Abbey when they were actually married in St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Page 58 – Field of the Cloth of Gold said to have happened in 1521, but it was actually 1520
  • Page 88 – Anne Boleyn’s father was described as Duke of Wiltshire when he was Earl of Wiltshire
  • Page 88 – Francis Byron questioned over Anne Boleyn’s fall, but it was Francis Bryan
  • Page 92 – McGrath says that Catherine Carey was acknowledged as Henry VIII’s daughter, but she was never acknowledged, it was only rumoured

Resolving these errors would make the book read a lot better and make me feel more like I could trust what else the author was saying. Errors make me feel like I can’t believe everything the author is saying, but this book was so interesting that I didn’t want to knock more than 1 star off my review.

Chapters:

  1. The Church, the Lady and Sexuality
  2. Tudor Marriage and Matters Sexual
  3. Medical Practices and Beliefs Associated with Childbirth and Contraception
  4. Attracting the Opposite Sex
  5. Dress to Impress & Tudor Dance and Music
  6. Courtly Romance and Poetry
  7. Noli Me tangere, for Caesar’s I am & Court Mistresses
  8. A Visit to a Brothel and Illicit Sex Issues & Aphrodisiacs and Love Potions
  9. Sex and Witchcraft
  10. Renaissance Art and Sex
  11. The Commoner, Villages, Towns and Sex
  12. Naughty Vocabulary during the Tudor Era

Book Review – ‘The Pocket Guide to Royal Scandals’ by Andy K. Hughes


A fun romp through royal history, looking at some of the most scandalous royals and what they did. There is very much a focus on English history, with just some of the more famous foreign rulers thrown in like Catherine the Great and Vlad the Impaler. The focus is also largely on the modern period, with nearly half of the book covering just the 20th century. There is only one Roman Emperor discussed, when they must have had enough scandals to fill most of the book!

It is a fun read, but with a couple of errors that I spotted including the Pilgrimage of Grace as happening in 1541 when it was 5 years earlier, and one of Anne Boleyn’s ‘lovers’ Mark Smeaton being hanged and quartered when he was actually beheaded. There are also a few grammatical errors where it doesn’t read as well as it could.

A fun short book to dip in and out of but seemed to gloss over some of the scandals of history to focus on the modern royals, which was a little disappointing for me, being a history buff. However, the sections on the modern royals were also very interesting, reading back on things that I heard on and off in the news growing up, but reading about them now as an adult puts a bit of a different spin on things.

Chapters:

  1. A Summary of Monarchs Since 1066
  2. Scandalous Rulers Before the Fifteenth Century
  3. Scandalous Rulers of the Fifteenth to Nineteenth Centuries
  4. Scandalous Rulers of the Twentieth Century
  5. No End in Sight!
  6. And Finally, Did You Know …

Book Review – ‘House of Tudor: A Grisly History’ by Mickey Mayhew


Thanks to Pen and Sword for gifting me a copy of this to review.

This is quite a different take on the Tudor period which I really enjoyed. It’s written in really short chapters which makes it easy to read and dip in and out of and return to if you want to refresh your memory on a particular event.

The book covers 45 different events of the Tudor period which are the most grisly events of the period rather than the most common events. These include the poisoning of Bishop Fisher, the blackened heart of Katherine of Aragon, Mary I’s phantom pregnancies, and the kidnap of Mary Queen of Scots, among many others. Particular attention is paid to some of the more gory or unusual aspects of the events described which is quite novel and something that some history books skate over.

The book has a great selection of images, and a comprehensive index. There are two things I will say that stops this being a 5-star read for me, maybe just as a historian myself, there is a lack of original / contemporary primary sources listed in the bibliography though they have been used in the text itself, but that certainly doesn’t detract from the excellent discourse and ease of reading of this book which I thoroughly enjoyed! There is also only mention of Henry VII in the Bosworth chapter but no further mention of him really, even given the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions and the execution of the Earl of Warwick.

Aside from these two things I can’t really fault it! This is a fantastic addition to my Tudor bookcase and one that I will certainly come back to when working on my own writing! It really does cover so many different things that there will be something for everyone whatever your interests are; political, personal, medical, or death. A brilliant gory discourse on my favourite period of history!

Book Review – ‘The Architecture Lover’s Guide to London’ by Sian Lye


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

I’m really enjoying these books, having first read ‘The Book Lover’s Guide to London’. They are really handy and engaging little guides to London, and I plan to take both on my next trip down there!

This one focuses on the buildings and architecture of London and how it’s developed over time, starting with Roman Londinium, through Medieval, Tudor and Stuart London, into the Georgian and Victorian periods, and finishing in the present day. This includes locations like the Tower of London, Westminster Palace, 10 Downing Street, the British Museum, and the Shard, with everything in between.

It’s structured in chronological order, so it is easy to see the development of the city from the earliest buildings to the newest ones, and some revisited within the book as they changed or were destroyed and rebuilt in a later period. As someone who didn’t really know much about the general architecture of London – I’ve visited places like the Tower of London, Westminster, Windsor, and Hampton Court as part of my love of the Tudors but never really explored the wider development of the city – this was a really handy introduction and there are several places I would like to know more about.

It has an easy-to-follow, clear and concise layout, but I do wish there was just a bit more information, and a bibliography of where you can go for further reading and where the author got their information.

If you’re planning on doing a sightseeing tour of London this little book will give you information you might not get from the London tour guides, and you can strike out on your own quite easily to explore some of the most iconic buildings in London and discover the history of one of the oldest cities in the UK, and the men and women behind some of the architecture as well.

Book Review – ‘On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes’ by Stephen Browning


Thanks to Pen and Sword for giving me a copy of this to review.

I’ve only read the Sherlock Holmes novels once, but I loved them, and this book certainly wants to make me read them again. I’m eyeing up the beautiful Wordsworth editions I have to admit. I’ve been to London quite a few times, where many of the Sherlock Holmes stories are set, but I didn’t think about the places I visited and how they tied into the stories, nor did I realise that Sherlock visited quite so many familiar places!

This book is set out as a series of walks around London, taking in locations frequented by Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle as well. It gives you the backstory to Conan Doyle and how he came to write the books. Sherlock Holmes is such an iconic character in literature and it’s really interesting to find out which places were actually real, and which were fictitious, with Conan Doyle mixing up the two seamlessly.

I don’t know what I expected from this book; I guess I thought that there wouldn’t be quite as much detail linking the London we know today with stories based in Victorian London. Browning tells you exactly where to go and what was there in the days of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle, and there is a surprising amount that doesn’t really seem to have changed.

I loved the appendices at the back as well, with lists of the stories in chronological order, lists of the actors who have played Sherlock Holmes on screen and a miscellany. A must have for any fan of Sherlock Holmes.

Chapters:

  1. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Creation of His ‘most notorious character’, Sherlock Holmes
  2. London: Where it all began – a walk in Baker Street and immediate area
  3. London: A Walk along Northumberland Avenue, up the Strand, Fleet Street and on to St Paul’s Cathedral
  4. London: Walking along Oxford Street, Regent Street, around Piccadilly Circus and into Haymarket
  5. London: Around Tottenham Court Road and into Holborn and Covent Garden
  6. London: At the centre of Government – a walk in Westminster and Victoria
  7. London: Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall and Mayfair
  8. London: A Walk around the City and East End
  9. Walks and Trips elsewhere … in London; in the UK as a Whole
  10. On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes

History Books


I have had a re-organise of my bookshelves this week; there wasn’t enough room on my nonfiction shelves anymore as I have had quite a few books gifted to me from lovely publishers for review!

I organise my books chronologically as far as I can – how do you organise yours?

I start at the top move downwards, as follows:

  • General monarchy, kings and queens
  • Plantagenets
  • Wars of the Roses general
  • Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville
  • Princes in the Tower
  • Richard III and Anne Neville
  • Tudors general
  • Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
  • Henry VIII
  • Six Wives
  • Katherine of Aragon
  • Anne Boleyn
  • Jane Seymour
  • Anne of Cleves
  • Katherine Howard
  • Katherine Parr
  • Edward VI
  • Lady Jane Grey and her sisters
  • Mary I
  • Elizabeth I
  • Mary Queen of Scots
  • Reformation
  • Places, palaces, castles, houses, guidebooks
  • General history

Obviously this list will expand as my interests and book collection expands, I’m hoping to add books on Jack the Ripper, Regency England, and the Holocaust. I have already read around this subjects, but many borrowed from the library rather than books I own.

I have a long list from publishers still to review so look out for reviews on these in the coming months!

  • John Ashdown-Hill – ‘Elizabeth Widville: Lady Grey, Edward IV’s Chief Mistress and the ‘Pink Queen’ (Pen and Sword)
  • John Matusiak – ‘Martyrs of Henry VIII: Repression, Defiance, and Sacrifice’ (The History Press)
  • Matthew Lewis – ‘Richard III: Loyalty Binds Me’ (Amberley Publishing)
  • Robert Stedall – ‘Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester’ (Pen and Sword)
  • Amy Licence – ‘1520: the Field of the Cloth of Gold’ (Amberley Publishing)
  • Heather Darsie – ‘Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s Beloved Sister’ (Amberley Publishing)
  • Nathen Amin – ‘Henry VII and the Tudor Pretenders: Simnel, Warbeck, and Warwick’ (Amberley Publishing)
  • Linda Collins & Siobhan Clarke – ‘King and Collector: Henry VIII and the Art of Kingship’ (The History Press)
  • Jan-Marie Knights – ‘The Tudor Socialite: A Social Calendar of Tudor Life’ (Amberley Publishing)
  • Sarah Bryson – ‘La Reine Blanche: Mary Tudor, A Life in Letters’ (Amberley Publishing)
  • John Jenkins – ‘The King’s Chamberlain: William Sandys of the Vyne, Chamberlain to Henry VIII’ (Amberley Publishing)
  • Amy Licence – ‘Tudor Roses: From Margaret Beaufort to Elizabeth I’ (Amberley Publishing)
  • Mickey Mayhew – ‘House of Tudor: A Grisly History’ (Pen and Sword)
  • Stephen Browning – ‘On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes’ (Pen and Sword)
  • Tony Morgan – ‘Power, Treason, and Plot in Tudor England: Margaret Clitherow: An Elizabethan Saint’

Thank you to Pen and Sword, Amberley Publishing, and The History Press for sending me complimentary copies of the above, and I promise I will try and get reviews of these up as soon as possible!

Book Review – ‘The Book Lover’s Guide to London’ by Sarah Milne


Thanks to Pen and Sword for giving me a copy of this to review.

Anyone who follows me on Instagram @tudorblogger would have seen this morning that I was asked to take part in the InstaTour for this book, and I was thrilled to be asked!

I really loved this book, it’s a little gem full of titbits about authors like Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, and George Orwell, some of the greats of literary history, and their connections to London. It discusses not only the connections of the authors to London, but their characters as well.

The book divides London down into sections including south, north, west, east, and central, and then into areas inside that including Bridewell, Clerkenwell, Holborn, Kensington, and Whitechapel. There are also some lovely images demonstrating the places in and around London, including blue plaques marking the places where famous writers lived or worked.

There is a very handy list in the back of the book of all of the books mentioned in the main text, classics and modern texts listed alphabetically by author. Reading this book has certainly expanded by want to read list; and that’s already miles long.

It’s amazing all the places and things that you can walk past in London without realising their significance but now I certainly won’t miss any of the bookish spots in London when I’m wandering around with the help of this guide. It’s a little pocket gem!

Book Review – ‘Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor’ by Phil Carradice


Thank you to Pen and Sword Books for a copy of this to review.

I’ve already read ‘Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower’ from the same series, so I was looking forward to this one, expecting it to be in the same vein, but I was a little disappointed. I didn’t find it very engaging and perhaps it isn’t fair to compare it to another book in the same series by a different author.

I was expecting a breakdown of each place that Henry travelled through, and although it is a comprehensive exploration of the route Henry Tudor took from his birth to his accession to the throne, the places themselves seem to take a back seat, not what I’d expect from a book called ‘Following in the Footsteps’ but I know that’s my personal opinion and others might disagree.

There were also a few errors – for example, the Duke of Norfolk is in several places referred to as the Earl of Norfolk, and Rhys ap Thomas sometimes referred to as Rhys ap Tudor. Perkin Warbeck and the Earl of Warwick were said to have been executed in 1497, but it was actually 1499. I also had a problem with the bibliography. For the amount of information given in the book I expected quite a comprehensive bibliography, but it was surprisingly short, and a book doesn’t instil me with confidence when it lists Wikipedia and the Daily Mail as sources, to be honest.

It’s certainly an interesting book and did offer a lot of insight especially into the journey Henry VII took on landing in Wales in August 1485 to Bosworth Field where Richard III died. That section is particularly detailed, but the sources are questionable sometimes I think. For the story I think it is intriguing, but I wouldn’t trust the sources used – if you’re planning on referencing or believing anything in this book, go back to the original sources.

Chapters:

  1. A Homecoming
  2. The Wars of the Roses
  3. Birth, Adolescence and Exile
  4. Brittany and Home Again
  5. The Return
  6. The Long March
  7. Into England
  8. Drawing the Battle Lines
  9. Bosworth Field
  10. After Battle
  11. The Aftermath

Book Review – ‘Usurpers: A New Look at Medieval Kings’ by Michele Morrical


Thank you to Pen and Sword Books for giving me a copy of this to review.

I was so excited to receive a copy of this book for review! I couldn’t wait to get stuck in after finishing writing my own book and I wasn’t disappointed.

This book looks at the kings through the medieval period who could be considered to be usurpers – William the Conqueror, King Stephen, Henry IV, Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry VII. Each section goes through the context of the seizure of power, the consequences of that seizure, and then a short discussion of whether the king could be considered a usurper.

The book has obviously been well-researched and is a concise and easy read. There are several sections of repetition where monarchs overlapped, especially with the final three kings who did all overlap with each other, so sections are repeated from the views of the different kings. There are also a couple of historical errors which I noticed when reading. These two points knocked it down to 4 stars for me, for what otherwise I might have given 5 stars.

Errors:

  • Page 129 – Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers, father of Elizabeth Woodville, met Edward IV when he landed at Ravenspur in March 1471 wasn’t possible as Richard Woodville had been killed in 1469.
  • Page 144 – The son born to George, Duke of Clarence, and Isabel Neville in 1476 which resulted in Isabel’s death was not their “first living son” as Edward, Earl of Warwick, had been born a year earlier in 1475.

It is a different view of kings in the Medieval period, looking at only those who could be considered usurpers, and how many there actually were. There were always several contenders for the throne, and it was when there were a lot of contenders that issues arose and prompted civil war. This is a very interesting book which I know I will come back to again and again.

Chapters:

Part 1: William the Conqueror 1066-1087
  1. The Anglo Saxons
  2. William the Bastard
  3. The Norman Invasion
  4. The Subjugation of England and Normandy
  5. Family Betrayal
  6. The Domesday Book
  7. Was William the Conqueror a Usurper?
Part 2: King Stephen 1135-1154
  • The Empress Matilda
  • Stolen Crown
  • Almost Queen of England
  • The Anarchy Continues
  • Changing of the Guard
  • Henry’s Final Invasion
  • Was King Stephen a Usurper?
Part 3: King Henry IV 1399-1413
  1. Edward III and the Succession Problem
  2. Rival Cousins
  3. The Lords Appellant
  4. Henry’s Invasion
  5. Was Henry IV a Usurper?
Part 4: King Edward IV 1461-1470 & 1471-1483
  • The Inept King Henry VI
  • The Wars of the Roses
  • The Rose of Rouen
  • The First Reign of Edward IV
  • Warwick’s Rebellion
  • The Second Reign of Edward IV
  • Was Edward IV a Usurper?
Part 5: Richard III 1483-1485
  • Loyalty Binds Me
  • The Unravelling of George, Duke of Clarence
  • The Road to the Throne
  • Unsteady Crown
  • Fall of the Last Plantagenet King
  • Was Richard III a Usurper?
Part 6: Henry VII 1485-1509
  • The Tudors and Beauforts
  • Henry’s Childhood and the Wars of the Roses
  • The Rise of Richard III
  • Henry Tudor’s Invasion
  • Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck
  • Henry’s Last Years
  • Was Henry VII a Usurper?

Book Review – ‘Disability and the Tudors: All the King’s Fools’ by Phillipa Vincent-Connolly


Thanks to Pen and Sword Books for giving me a copy of this to review.

This is certainly something new in Tudor history. There has been a spurt of ‘new’ history books, for instance looking at black Tudors and disability. It’s worth reading about to get a more rounded knowledge of the period and context of it.

This book has chapters on all sorts of things from disability at court including court fools, disability in the common people, effects on fertility, depictions in portraits, etc. I found it a thoroughly interesting read. Some sections I found quite hard going, perhaps the sections I found more technical to read. There are several sections of quite extensive repetition, which is probably due to the fact that there is limited information on disability in Tudor times.

I got a sense part way through that I’d read the same sentences before and looking at other reviews just before I wrote this, and after I finished reading the book, I noticed how many instances of plagiarism had been noted by other readers. I won’t indulge in pointing them out as I didn’t notice them when reading myself, but it seems some of them were quite obvious. Something to bear in mind when reading.

But it offers a lot to history and is well-written and researched, looking not only at the disabilities that might have been suffered and how they were perceived then, but also how perceptions and even naming of disabilities has changed. It’s certainly not perfect, but it offers something new to sink our teeth into and expansion of knowledge is never a bad thing. You can tell that the author has experience personally with disability in the sympathetic way she tackles the subject and in perceptions of those with a disability.

Chapters:

  1. Everyday Life in the Community
  2. Tudor Laws and Disability
  3. Superstition and Disability
  4. Religion, Reformation, and Disability
  5. Almshouses and Hospitals
  6. Physicians, Surgeons, Barber-Surgeons, and Healers
  7. The Health of a King and His Decline into Disability
  8. Disabled People in High Places
  9. Disability in the Tudor Court
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