I think what really attracted me to this book is that it’s based on a real historical mystery, not something completely made up and inserted into the historical context. The Prebendaries Plot was real, and Holbein did die at the time the story is set. But combining the two is really clever, especially given that we don’t know exactly how Holbein died.
It’s a gripping mystery with so many different strands that all come together. There are plenty of twists, turns, and red herrings to contend with which keep you gripped to the end, until the mystery is resolved. The cover says that you’ll love this series if you love the Shardlake books, but I do think the Shardlake books are actually slightly better because Shardlake is a more interesting character I’ve found. But that doesn’t deduct from the genius of this mystery.
The 4 stars rather than 5 was because the writing in parts felt clunky and didn’t flow as well as it could have, but the engaging mystery rescued it. Perhaps it felt clunky because there was a lot of, obviously well-researched, information about the religious discord in England at this time and how it was affecting people, but it didn’t really add to the story. I didn’t feel that the amount of information given was entirely necessary to the story.
What was interesting to me was the potential insight into Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, as a person. I haven’t really read much about him as a person, though he obviously comes up as part of my research into Tudor England, so it was intriguing to think of him as a person thrust into one of the highest positions in England but not very good at the political machinations and having to rely on others to assist him.
It’s good that, at the end of the book, there is an explanation from the author of what is actually history and what is fiction, it helps to keep it clear for those looking to research further. I wish more authors would do this when writing fiction as otherwise lines become blurred.
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.
Thomas Cranmer was Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII and Edward VI, and briefly under Mary I, and was seen as a leader of the English Reformation. He was responsible for the Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and supported many reformers from England and abroad. Cranmer was arrested on the orders of Mary I for heresy, and initially recanted before dismissing his recantation and being burned alive in 1556.
Name: Thomas Cranmer
Title/s: Archbishop of Canterbury
Birth: 2 July 1489 in Aslockton, Nottinghamshire, England
Death: 21 March 1556 in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Buried: Martyr’s Memorial, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
H.M. Castor ‘VIII’ (Dorking: Templar Publishing, 2011) Paperback, ISBN 978-1-8487-74995
Genre/s: Historical Drama
Setting: Tower of London, Hampton Court and Richmond (London, England)
Characters: Henry VIII / Prince Arthur / Henry VII / Elizabeth of York / Katherine of Aragon / Cardinal Thomas Wolsey / Anne Boleyn / Jane Seymour / Mary I / Archbishop Thomas Cranmer / Thomas More / Elizabeth I / Katherine Parr / Katherine Howard / Edward VI / Anne of Cleves / Thomas Cromwell
Storyline: From Henry VIII’s childhood until his death in 1547. The novel covers Henry’s imagined childhood in some detail, looking at the death of his mother and brother, his accession to the throne, his quest to beget a son to succeed him and the relationships with his wives. There is also a spectre in the background haunting him. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘VIII’ by H.M. Castor”
French form of ‘Anna’. ‘Anna’ is a form of Channah used in Greek and Latin. In Hebrew it means ‘favour’ or ‘grace’. It was a popular name in the Byzantine Empire, and was later used to honour Saint Anna, mother of the Virgin Mary.In Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession, there was a pageant showing her as the mother of the Virgin Mary, but it boded ill, as Mary only gave birth to a girl, and not the son Anne Boleyn desperately wanted and needed to give Henry VIII. In the end, Anne only gave birth to a girl. Anne of Cleves was shown favour after she accepted the end of her marriage to Henry VIII – instead of execution as Anne Boleyn had, Anne of Cleves was accepted as the king’s sister, and outlived him. Partly this was because of her having a standing similar to that of Katherine of Aragon – she had powerful relatives who would probably have avenged her death.Continue reading “Meaning of Tudor Names”