Book Review – 'Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey' by Jennifer C. Wilson


On hallowed ground… With over three thousand burials and memorials, including seventeen monarchs, life for the ghostly community of Westminster Abbey was never going to be a quiet one. Add in some fiery Tudor tempers, and several centuries-old feuds, and things can only go one way: chaotic. Against the backdrop of England’s most important church, though, it isn’t all tempers and tantrums. Poets’ Corner hosts poetry battles and writing workshops, and close friendships form across the ages. With the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots, however, battle ensues. Will Queens Mary I and Elizabeth I ever find their common ground, and lasting peace? [Description from Amazon UK]

Kindred Spirits #3

Another great novel from Jennifer Wilson. I absolutely adore this series, and I’m really hoping for a book eventually set around Windsor with Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. I think that would be great. I did thoroughly enjoy this installment in the series though because there were so many different characters from different periods coming together and it was interesting to see how those relationships developed.

This one focuses on the kings and queens, and literary and scientific minds buried or commemorated at Westminster. I loved the developing relationship between Richard III and Henry VII and I understand that this is explored more in the fourth book in the series based in York. As for the relationship between Mary I and Elizabeth I, I can imagine that this is actually how the two would have been in real life had they been raised as siblings rather than rivals for the throne. All siblings argue and fight, but these two took it to the next level.

It’s history but not as we know and Wilson’s knowledge of and passion for medieval and early modern history is obvious as she brings historical figures into the present, without losing the sense of who they were in their own time. One of my favourite moments was when Anne of Cleves snuck onto the Abbey computer to alter her Wikipedia page and any references to ‘Flander’s Mare’, and the reappearance of Richard III, who I loved in ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London’.

This series is so unique, and very cleverly done. You can tell that a great amount of research has gone into the book, as there are little titbits of historical fact, as well as the ghosts trying to dispel, or arguing about, rumours swirling about their lives. It’s really interesting to read and imagine what these historical figures would think about how we view them today, and what they would make of today’s world, incredibly distant from what they knew in their lives. I want more, please, Jennifer!?

Another bonus is that is was written by an author who lives in the same area as me! Well-written and worth a read for anyone with an interest in historical fiction, or historical ghost stories, rumours and a bit of humour thrown in!

Book Review – ‘Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower’ by Andrew Beattie


Andrew Beattie 'Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower'

Thanks to Pen and Sword Books for the chance to read this.

The story of the Princes in the Tower is well known: the grim but dramatic events of 1483, when the twelve-year-old Edward Plantagenet was taken into custody by his uncle, Richard of Gloucester, and imprisoned in the Tower of London along with his younger brother, have been told and re-told hundreds of times. The ways in which the events of that year unfolded remain shrouded in mystery, and the fate of the young princes forms an infamous backdrop to Richard III’s reign and the end of the Wars of the Roses. Although little about the princes’ lives is commonly known, Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower tells the story in a way that is wholly new: through the places they lived in and visited. From Westminster Abbey to the Tower of London, and from the remote castle of Ludlow in the Welsh borders to the quiet Midlands town of Stony Stratford – via major medieval centres such as Northampton and Shrewsbury – the trail through some of England’s most historic places throws a whole new light on this most compelling of historical dramas. [Description from Pen & Sword Books]

I really enjoyed this trip through the lives of the Princes in the Tower. I’d been eyeing this book up for a while so was thrilled when Pen and Sword offered me the chance to read it. The book doesn’t look so much at the disappearance of the Princes, although that is covered in the section on the Tower of London, but at where they spent their lives. The Princes in the Tower is one of my absolute favourite historical mysteries, along with Jack the Ripper, and I don’t think I will ever tire of reading about it because it is so fascinating and there are so many different tendrils to research and discover. The places where they lived and where the great events of their lives took place is just one part of it.

There are excellent sections on the aforementioned Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and Palace, Stony Stratford, and Ludlow. It’s a really interesting way of looking at something that has been examined over and over for the past 500 years. There is also a section at the end looking at the possibility that one or both of the princes could have survived the Tower, and what could have happened to them afterwards, including the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions, and some lesser known myths and legends.

There were plenty of images of the different places discussed which helped to place the events in the locations, and portraits from the time. It helps to link everything together when you have visual aids as well as descriptions and analysis.

However, I didn’t think that the constant references to fictional works like those by Philippa Gregory, Emma Darwin, Terence Morgan and Vanora Bennett really added anything. I skipped past a lot of them. In my opinion, it would have been better to discuss some of the historiography of the places – what other people have thought about these places and how views have changed over time. That is what I felt was missing from this book.

Nevertheless, an enjoyable and interesting read, and I am looking forward to reading another in the series which I have on my shelf – ‘Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor’, about Henry VII and places he visited before the Battle of Bosworth.

Chapters:

  1. Westminster: Sanctuary, Palace and Abbey
  2. Ludlow, Shrewsbury and the Marches
  3. A Coup on Watling Street – Northampton and Stony Stratford
  4. Palace and Prison: The Tower of London
  5. The Aftermath – Ghosts and Tombs, Imposters and Battlefields

Book Review – ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London’ by Jennifer C. Wilson


A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers… In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews. Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury. With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave? But foremost – will the young Plantagenet Princes join them? [Description from Amazon UK]

I’d heard of this book long before I actually got around to reading it. Jennifer C. Wilson is a fairly local author to where I live – on the coast in the wet and windy north-east coast of England. She was going to give a talk at my local library, but it was sadly cancelled. I certainly wasn’t disappointed by this book, and it exceeded my expectations!

This book had a really interesting premise for me, surrounding two of my favourite historical figures – Anne Boleyn and Richard III. The idea is that the ghosts with a connection to the Tower of London haunt the grounds and buildings of the Tower. These ghosts include, not only Anne and Richard, but the Duke of Clarence, William Hastings, Jane Lady Rochford, Katherine Howard, Jane Grey, George Boleyn and Thomas Culpeper. These are some of the most famous figures of the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor dynasty.

The main narrative involves Richard III and his search for what happened to the Princes in the Tower. Wilson’s narrative suggests that Richard III wasn’t guilty of their murder, and didn’t actually know what happened to them. Anne Boleyn is determined to help Richard, and there even seems to be a kind of romantic relationship between them. The only thing that disappointed me about this book was that we never do find out what happened to the Princes in Wilson’s narrative.

It’s a well-written historical / supernatural crossover and the characters come to life, with characteristics we would recognise from the historical record, as well as novels by the likes of Philippa Gregory and Jean Plaidy. The interplay between characters from different periods was really intriguing, especially between the likes of George Boleyn and George, Duke of Clarence. The idea of choosing to haunt the living was also funny, and provided some comic moments. Wilson has obviously done her research about the atmosphere and timetable of the Tower of London and the history and relationships between some of these characters.

I am very much looking forward to reading the other books in this series on the Royal Mile, Westminster Abbey and York. It will be interesting to see how Wilson handles other historical characters and periods. I know the Royal Mile one is based around Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley, another one based in my favourite Tudor period!

Book Review – ‘Richard III: Fact and Fiction’ by Matthew Lewis


Matthew Lewis 'Richard III Fact and Fiction'

Matthew Lewis, Richard III: Fact and Fiction (Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books, 2019) ISBN 9781526727978

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 really enjoyed this book. I liked the way that it was set out in sections so you could easily dip in and out of it, perfect for those who want to know more but don’t have the background. If you’ve watched ‘The White Queen’ and want to know more about Richard, I’d recommend this book as it clearly separates fact from fiction without assuming the reader is a complete ninny. Some books, in trying to set things out clearly, simplify the facts too much, but Lewis doesn’t make this error.

Each chapter is split into sections and each section asks a different question that is contentious over Richard III – did he kill the Princes in the Tower? Did he and the Woodvilles have a running feud? Was he betrayed at Bosworth? These and many others are explored in this book. It is written chronologically, starting with Richard’s birth and child, his time as Duke of Gloucester, his reign as King of England, and then his tragic end at the Battle of Bosworth. It also looks at how accurate or otherwise Shakespeare’s portrayal was, and what we’ve learned from the discovery of Richard III’s bones in Leicester.

Some of the things that Lewis brings up are really interesting and I hadn’t really thought about them before, but most of the conclusions he draws make sense. Lewis examines the evidence that exists, and puts forward his own opinions. I like that he doesn’t force his conclusions on you either, but gives you the evidence and allows you to make up your own mind. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘Richard III: Fact and Fiction’ by Matthew Lewis”

Book Review – ‘The Tudor Crown’ by Joanna Hickson 


The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson

When Edward of York takes back the English crown, the Wars of the Roses scatter the Lancastrian nobility and young Henry Tudor, with a strong claim to the throne, is forced into exile. Recently widowed and vulnerable, his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, forges an uncomfortable alliance with Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Swearing an oath of allegiance to York, Margaret agrees to marry the king’s shrewdest courtier, Lord Stanley. But can she tread the precarious line between duty to her husband, loyalty to her son, and her obligation to God and the king? When tragedy befalls Edward’s reign, Richard of York’s ruthless actions fire the ambition of mother and son. As their destinies converge each of them will be exposed to betrayal and treachery and in their gruelling bid for the Tudor crown, both must be prepared to pay the ultimate price… [Description from Waterstones]

I enjoyed this book, but I did find it hard-going in places, as it seemed to be quite repetitive in places so I struggled to get through those bits. However, overall, it was a very engaging read and made me think about things that I hadn’t considered before, like what life was like for English exiles in France in the sixteenth century.

I thought that this book looked interesting because it focused on the lesser-known period of Henry VII’s life – his time in exile in Brittany and France before he became king. Alongside Henry, some chapters are also written from the point of view of his mother, Margaret Beaufort. It’s not something that you really see in novels about this period – everything is focused on Edward IV and Richard III in England rather than what is going on over the Channel.

I thought that the portrayal of Henry VII was particularly engrossing because it is so different to the way he is typically portrayed as a miserly and miserable old man – Hickson makes him handsome, exciting, and a bit of a daredevil, in ways which I didn’t expect. It was Henry’s portrayal that made me want to keep reading, to see what Hickson would do when it came to the Battle of Bosworth. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The portrayal of Margaret Beaufort was also quite different to what I’d expected, because most accounts seem to conclude that the marriage between her and Thomas Stanley was a marriage of convenience, but this novel suggests a deeper relationship, which I liked seeing. As for supporting characters, I really liked Davy Owen and Meg Woodville. Meg in particular was a surprise to me, but a nice one.

The writing itself was descriptive and quite evocative in places, as Henry sights Wales again for the first time in 14 years – that scene in particular was beautifully written and described. The differences between England and France were also painted starkly, as Henry and Margaret both see things differently. Henry in France sees the country through more childlike eyes for a large proportion of the book, while Margaret sees England through more adult and cynical eyes. It created an interesting juxtaposition.

Having read this book, I am looking forward to reading ‘Red Rose, White Rose’ and ‘First of the Tudors’ which I have on my bookshelf ready to read.

Review also available on my sister blog https://bookbloggerish.wordpress.com/

Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses


  • Story of past open to interpretation 
  • Carefully edited and deceitful version of events 
  • Not just a version of what happened – more a tapestry of different stories woven together by whoever was in power at the time 
  • Wars of the Roses was invented by the Tudors to justify their power 
  • Immortalised by Shakespeare – darkest chapter in English history 
  • Lancaster and York locked in battle for the crown of England – kings deposed, innocent children murdered, cousin fought against cousin 
  • 1485 Richard III slain and Henry Tudor took the throne 
  • Henry VII’s victory hailed the ending of the Medieval period 
  • Line between fact and fiction often gets blurred 

Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.

  • 1455 Stubbins in Lancashire scene of a legendary battle in the Wars of the Roses beginning with volleys of arrows but ran out of ammunition 
  • Lancastrians pelted the Yorkists with black pudding – local legend 
  • Yorkists pelted the Lancastrians with Yorkshire puddings – local legend 
  • Wars of the Roses in national memory 
  • History books – rivalry between Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose) – bloody rivalry largely a creation of the Tudors 
  • 1461 bloodshed real in the middle of a snowstorm at Towton 
  • Lancastrians started out well but tide turned against them, chased by the Yorkists down the slope to a river and so a massacre began 
  • Blood stained the snow red, so location became known as the bloody meadow 
  • Shakespeare portrayed the battle as a bloody Armageddon – represented a country torn apart by war, nothing as bad in our history 
  • Somme 19,000 British soldiers killed on the first day, Towton 28,000 killed 
  • 20 years ago Bradford University revealed barbarity of fighting with remains of 43 men killed at Towton 
  • Head forced down into the spine, poleaxes – exceptional even for the Wars of the Roses 
  • Skirmishes, but real battles only around 8 in 30 years 
  • Not ravaged by all-out war – later myth 
  • Out of 32 years of wars, fighting on lasted a total of 13 weeks 

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses”

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”

Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Wars of the Roses


Henry VI

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

Chained swan, chained antelope, red rose, ostrich feathers, spotted panther

The red rose is the symbol of the House of Lancaster, although it didn’t really become so poignant until later on in history. Red is the colour of blood and life, of love and combat. Henry VI’s reign saw a lot of combat and bloodshed, but Henry himself wasn’t very involved. He seems to have caused the Wars of the Roses by his inability to rule England properly. He seemed to lack both life and love, however, as he didn’t seem to engage properly with people.

The ostrich feather symbolised the Egyptian goddess Maat. Maat was the ancient Egyptian goddess of truth, balance, order, law, morality and justice. Henry VI did at least push for justice and morality because of his faith in his religion. Ostrich feathers also stood for beauty and iridescence. Henry VI was obviously interested in beauty – he founded Eton College Chapel and King’s College Chapel, enhancing his father’s legacy of architectural patronage. King’s College Chapel has the world’s largest fan vaulted roof. Continue reading “Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Wars of the Roses”

Monarchs are often remembered for just one or two events and this paints them as either good or bad for the rest of history. Why do we do this and how do perceptions change if you examine their reigns in their entirety?


Monarchs seem to be remembered for perhaps one or two events or actions that then define them in English history. This doesn’t seem fair, as people have both good and bad inside them, and our actions are often dictated by the circumstances in which we live, and the events that take place around us. Most of our actions have good intentions when we start out, but it doesn’t always end that way. Monarchs who are seen as good have made mistakes, and monarchs who are seen as bad have also done good things. Here I will examine Richard III, King John, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.

The most eponymous “bad” monarch is Richard III, most remembered for the mysterious disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, presumed murdered by Richard himself. What people don’t always remember is that the Princes were in fact his nephews, and Richard never showed any previous inclination to take the throne, unlike his brother George Duke of Clarence.[1] The Princes’ mother, Elizabeth Woodville, didn’t seem to hold Richard accountable for their deaths and she emerged from sanctuary, putting her daughters under Richard’s protection. Either that, or she was so ambitious that she didn’t care that her brother-in-law killed her sons, and just wanted some power for herself.[2] However, if this was true, she would be sadly disappointed. Richard did a lot of positive things during his reign – he strengthened the economy and ended the wars with France.[3] He also strengthened ties with the north of England, due to his marriage to Anne Neville, daughter of a northern magnate. The bad is always remembered above the good where applicable, especially where there is so much mystery surrounding an event, like the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower. Continue reading “Monarchs are often remembered for just one or two events and this paints them as either good or bad for the rest of history. Why do we do this and how do perceptions change if you examine their reigns in their entirety?”

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”