Book Review – ‘The Peasants’ Revolting Crimes’ by Terry Deary


Popular history writer Terry Deary takes us on a light-hearted and often humorous romp through the centuries with Mr & Mrs Peasant, recounting foul and dastardly deeds committed by the underclasses, as well as the punishments meted out by those on the right side’ of the law. Discover tales of arsonists and axe-wielders, grave robbers and garroters, poisoners and prostitutes. Delve into the dark histories of beggars, swindlers, forgers, sheep rustlers and a whole host of other felons from the lower ranks of society who have veered off the straight and narrow. There are stories of highwaymen and hooligans, violent gangs, clashing clans and the witch trials that shocked a nation. Learn too about the impoverished workers who raised a riot opposing crippling taxes and draconian laws, as well as the strikers and machine-smashers who thumped out their grievances against new technologies that threatened their livelihoods. Britain has never been short of those who have been prepared to flout the law of the land for the common good, or for their own despicable purposes. The upper classes have lorded and hoarded their wealth for centuries of British history, often to the disadvantage of the impoverished. Frustration in the face of this has resulted in revolt. [Description from Waterstones]

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

I think this was one of the most enjoyable history books I’ve read in a while. I thoroughly enjoyed the Horrible Histories series by Terry Deary when I was younger, and I think it was those books that made me want to study history. This book on the crimes of peasants throughout history doesn’t disappoint when compared – the only thing I miss in comparison to the Horrible Histories are the cartoons, which I suppose have been removed to make this book better for adults.

Deary brings in primary sources throughout, and quotes from various famous people from history, both fictional and real. The book is split down into easily digestible chunks chronologically from the Normans, through the Medieval, Tudor and Stuart periods and on to the Georgians and Victorians, discussing all kinds of crimes from football hooliganism, rioting, grave robbing, poisoning and murder. The whole spectrum is covered, along with different punishments.

I’m not normally a big fan of footnotes – I actually prefer endnotes as it means that you can read without getting distracted by them, and just look at the endnotes that are interesting to you. Some books have really long footnotes, which also really annoys me, but this book doesn’t have that problem. The footnotes in this book are actually really enjoyable, as they seem to add some comic relief and jokes, which are very much like what I remember of Terry Deary.

The chapters are all broken down into sub-sections, making this easy to dip in and out of, or if you are interested in a particular type of crime or a particular period. He goes deeply into some cases where there is a lot of evidence or a moral tale. Deary has a great writing style which makes his work easy to read and engage with, and makes you want to keep reading, which is great in a non-fiction history book, as some of them can be a bit dry. This definitely isn’t a problem with Terry Deary’s books and writing!

This book is definitely worth a read and apparently there will be more in the series with the next one entitled ‘The Peasants’ Revolting Lives’. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in to the next one, it’s already on my wish list!

Chapters:

  1. Norman Nastiness
  2. Mediaeval Misery
  3. Wild Women
  4. Tudor Twisters
  5. Sinful Stuarts
  6. Quaint Crimes
  7. Georgian Jokers and Victorian Villains

Discussion Questions – The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory


The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

  1. The King’s Curse pans over forty years of Lady Margaret Pole’s presence in and around the Tudor court, as she and her family rise and fall from favour with Henry VII and then Henry VIII. How do Lady Margaret, her characteristics, and her goals change over the course of her life at and away from court?
    • Margaret at first is ambitious for herself and her brother, and then her sons, but she comes to realise that what is more important is that they survive.
    • Margaret’s goals change as the people she cares about die generally – her first goal was to help her brother, Edward Earl of Warwick, then Elizabeth of York, and then her husband and sons.
    • As Margaret becomes more experienced she begins to understand the politics of power and how her family came to fall from power, and grows to accept it to an extent.
    • The turning point in Margaret’s thinking comes with the execution of the Duke of Buckingham in 1521, because Margaret thought him to be invincible in a way.
  1. Discuss the meaning of the title, The King’s Curse. What is the actual curse? How does Henry VIII’s belief that he is cursed affect his behaviour? Do you believe that the curse that Elizabeth of York and her mother spoke against the Tudors comes to fruition?
    • I think the title refers to the curse that Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York are said to have enacted against the person who killed the Princes in the Tower.
    • The curse would affect Henry VIII if his mother, Margaret Beaufort, was the one who killed the Princes, as Gregory suggests in ‘The Red Queen’ as well as here.
    • I think in a way Henry VIII is determined to outrun the curse so he begins to kill off anyone with a claim to the throne so that the only heir left is his own son.
    • Eventually the curse does seem to come to fruition as the Tudor line dies out and the crown descends instead through the female line of Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret, and the rulers of Scotland.
  1. Consider how deeply Margaret is affected by the execution of her brother Edward, “Teddy,” the Earl of Warwick. How does this affect her familial loyalty and influence her actions? What does it mean to Margaret to bear the name Plantagenet? What does the White Rose mean to her?
    • I think that, at first, Margaret didn’t believe that Henry VII would execute her brother who was just a naïve boy – from all accounts he was mentally stunted from his time in the Tower.
    • When Margaret has children of her own she becomes even more determined that they won’t suffer the way she and her brother did for their Plantagenet blood.
    • I think at the beginning of the novel Margaret saw the name Plantagenet as marking her out as special and blessed, but towards the end she sees it more as a curse as it pulls apart her family.
    • Even towards the end Margaret believed that the White Rose was the rightful ruler, but she wasn’t willing to risk as much to bring it about.

Continue reading “Discussion Questions – The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory”

Who Was … Catherine of Valois?


Catherine of Valois is often seen as the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty. Her first husband was Henry V, the victor of Agincourt, and after his death she married her servant, Owen Tudor. Catherine was the mother of Henry VI by Henry V, and the grandmother of Henry VII through her son, Edmund Tudor. Catherine was descended from the French royal family, and her first marriage was supposed to seal a peace treaty between England and France.

Name: Catherine of Valois

Title/s: Queen of England

Birth: 27 October 1401 in Paris, France

Death: 3 January 1437 in London, England

Buried: Westminster Abbey, London, England

Spouse: Henry V of England 1420-1422 & Owen Tudor?

Children: Henry VI of England 1421-1471 / Edmund Earl of Richmond 1430-1456 / Jasper Duke of Bedford 1431-1495 / Edward ?-? / Owen ?-? / Margaret 1437-1437

Parents: Charles VI of France 1368-1422 & Isabella of Bavaria 1370-1435

Siblings: Charles 1386-1386 / Jeanne 1388-1390 / Isabella Duchess of Orleans 1389-1409 / Jeanne Duchess of Brittany 1391-1433 / Charles 1392-1401 / Marie 1393-1438 / Michelle 1395-1422 / Louis 1397-1415 / John 1398-1417 / Charles VII of France 1403-1461 / Philip 1407-1407

Noble Connections: Catherine became the grandmother of Henry VII of England through the marriage of her son, Edmund, to Margaret Beaufort. She was the wife of Henry V of England, and the daughter of Charles VI of France. Her sons became Earl of Richmond and Duke of Bedford.

Continue reading “Who Was … Catherine of Valois?”

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”

Britain’s Bloody Crown Part 1 07.01.2016


Henry VI 1540 at the National Portrait Gallery
Henry VI 1540 at the National Portrait Gallery

Nearly 600 years ago Wars of the Roses fought over the crown.

30 years crown changed hands 7 times.

Struggle erupted when there was a feud between Margaret of Anjou (Queen of England) and Richard, Duke of York, over the control of the weak king, Henry VI.

Trouble began because Henry VI was so weak that a vacuum opened in England that takes 50 years to be fixed.

May 1450 Henry VI in power, Duke of Suffolk papered over the cracks, but he is now dead by rebel hands.

Summer 1450, no one now left to keep a lid on trouble for Henry VI – rebels enter London and cause violence and looting.

Henry VI never seen a battlefield, shallow, pious and foolish.

Henry VI tries to placate rebels by giving them the corrupt Lord Say – they try and execute him at the Guildhall.

England dissolving into anarchy – Henry VI leaves London for Kenilworth. Continue reading “Britain’s Bloody Crown Part 1 07.01.2016”

‘Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty’ Part 3 – Edward II – 11/12/2014


 

Edward II
Edward II

Edward II = king most famous for story of his death
Life even more extraordinary – revenge, savagery, passion, bloodlust
1307 Edward I dies on campaign, leaves a country in debt and beset by enemies
First thing he does is order recall of Piers Gaveston from France – old king banished him to France because of influence over the king, hated by every noble
Gaveston has mean names for the nobles
Gaveston is trouble but Edward can’t see it at all, can only see one step ahead, doesn’t see that all his actions have consequences, mostly bad ones
Disaster right from the start
Edward marries Isabella, 12 year old daughter of the Queen of France
Coronation feast – less like a coronation and more like a party for Edward & Gaveston
Gaveston wears purple, king only talks to him, and arms of Gaveston and the king entwined
Thomas of Lancaster, king’s cousin, incensed
French nobles walk out of the feast – destroys French goodwill
April 1308 first parliament, Lancaster and nobles turn up armed = Gaveston must go, accuses nobles of treachery
Edward refuses to budge, even threatened to lose his throne Continue reading “‘Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty’ Part 3 – Edward II – 11/12/2014”

My Notes from Episode 1 of ‘The Plantagenets’ Shown on BBC 17.03.2014


All 15 Plantagenet kings were supposedly descended from the Countess of Anjou.
Family politics and dynastic ambition.
War, justice, parliament and architecture.
Anjou (West France) 12th century. 1128 Matilda, daughter of Henry I of France ordered to marry Geoffrey of Anjou. After a year they separated but she eventually gave him 3 sons.
Fight for the throne – Matilda named heir but throne seized by Stephen = civil war ‘the Anarchy’.
1142 Stephen besieged Matilda for 3 months – she crept away.

Eleanor of Aquitaine from the Hulton Archive
Eleanor of Aquitaine from the Hulton Archive

Fighting stopped when Matilda’s son, Henry, came of age – married Eleanor of Aquitane, who had initially married Louis VII of France.
Henry and Eleanor had a lot of land in France and four sons.
Wanted to win the English crown.
Many joined the Plantagenets. Henry and Stephen met at Wallingford Castle, but the armies refused to fight.
Stephen recognised Henry as heir. In 1154 Henry became Henry II of England. Continue reading “My Notes from Episode 1 of ‘The Plantagenets’ Shown on BBC 17.03.2014”