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.
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.
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.
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.
‘The Mirror and the Light’ has to be one of the most anticipated books of 2020. It’s been 8 years since the previous book in the trilogy, ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, was published.
The trilogy as a whole focuses on the life of Henry VIII’s chief minister after the fall of Cardinal Wolsey – Thomas Cromwell. For those who don’t know the background, Cromwell was at the heart of Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s fall and execution, and Henry VIII’s 6-month marriage to Anne of Cleves. There is debate in the historical community over this involvement in these events, but Mantel puts him at the forefront.
It’s taken me around 2 months to read this – not because of any real problem with the book, but because of this COVID-19 outbreak. I’ve seen quite a few people saying that they’ve been struggling to read during lockdown, and I’ve fallen into that hole. Nevertheless, I have finished it finally and I’m really glad I finally got to see Cromwell’s end written in Mantel’s hand.
“Sometimes it is years before we can see who are the heroes in an affair and who are the victims.”
‘The Mirror and the Light’ by Hilary Mantel
I loved the way that the last few chapters were written in particular. For anyone who knows how Cromwell’s life ends (I feel like most people reading this blog probably will, but I still won’t drop any spoilers!), it felt like a different way of ending than those we’ve seen before, either in books or on TV or film. It was a sympathetic way of seeing it, as Mantel’s portrayal of Cromwell has been throughout the series. Whether her view is right or wrong her grasp of the historical context is demonstrated by the tiny details that are included, looking not just at the events established but what is hinted at in letters left behind.
One thing I will say, though, is that this is actually my least favourite of the trilogy; ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ was my favourite. In some ways this felt too long, like it dragged on – I didn’t feel like it had the same pace as the others. The section between Jane’s death in 1537 and the marriage to Anne in 1540 felt a little forced in places, as Mantel tried to fit in everything that happened and could have a bearing on Cromwell’s fall.
Nevertheless, a worthy ending to a series about a man that has often been maligned by history, rightly or wrongly; I’ll leave it to you to make up your own minds.
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
Richard III and Henry VII Experience in York
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
The Jewel Tower
The Palace of Westminster
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
Are there any books missing that you would thoroughly recommend? Sound off in the comments!
In 1919 after the First World War Alexander Woollcott returned to New York. Sarah Victor was working in the kitchen of the Algonquin Hotel and Woollcott had a sweet tooth so indulged in their deserts. A group of writers, critics and actors gathered at the hotel to discuss and debate. They dubbed themselves “The Vicious Circle” initially as a joke. The circle lasted for around 10 years and several of its members acquired international reputations.
Below I’ve chosen some historical figures that I’d have at my historical Algonquin table.
Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I
Having mother and daughter in the same room would be amazing – to find out how Anne Boleyn’s fate influenced Elizabeth, and to have the pair be able to talk to each other and see how they interact. Anne died when Elizabeth was aged only 2 ½ so they never really knew each other. That relationship between the two of them has always fascinated me, because Anne had a huge influence on Elizabeth even though she never knew her. Having studied Tudor history for many years Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I were two of the most fascinating figures to me.
Researching the Tudors, which is my favourite period of history, you can’t fail to come across Richard III and his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. From this developed my interest in Richard as a person and a king, and my interest in the mystery of what happened to the Princes in the Tower. One of the questions I would love to ask Richard would be what happened to the princes and was he responsible for their disappearance (and murder?). I would also really want to know about his relationship with his niece, Elizabeth of York, as rumours were that they were romantically involved.
Louis XIV of France
Inside the mind of the man who built the Palace of Versailles would be an interesting place to be. A lot of people probably expect his inclusion on the list to be a result of the TV show Versailles. I studied the French Revolution in sixth form, and the whole way that the French monarchy worked and the way that social change resulted in the execution of a monarch really just highlighted to me the earlier French religious wars, which were at their peak in the 17th century. I’ve always been interested in palaces and castles as well, and Versailles is probably one of the most famous in the world.
I’ve always been fascinated by Oscar Wilde – we read ‘A Woman of No Importance’ in sixth form which I loved, and we discussed Wilde’s life in brief, which I found intriguing. I wanted to know more, hence the inclusion of Oscar Wilde in this list. Wilde’s friendships and acquaintances were wide-ranging, and his conviction for gross indecency, imprisonment and early death made him even more famous. His writings include ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. It would be absolutely fascinating to try and understand his emotions and actions.
George Gordon, Lord Byron
After reading ‘Don Juan’ while at sixth form I realised just how interesting Byron’s life was – all I knew prior to studying ‘Don Juan’ was that Byron was the father of mathematician Ada Lovelace and had several affairs, dying in Greece. I never realised that, for example, that Byron married Annabella MIlbanke at Seaham Hall, just south across the Rivers Tyne and Wear from where I live. It is a beautiful place to visit, and I think that the local connection made his life seem more real really. His affair with Caroline Lamb, wife of prime minister, Lord Melbourne, made his life truly scandalous.
Who would you have at a historical Algonquin table? Sound off in the comments!
Looking around my study I have quite a few things that I’ve collected or been given over the years since I started researching (or became obsessed with!) the Tudors.
Check out some gift ideas for that Tudor-lover in your life, or just to treat yourself if the mood takes you!
One thing that I have that I particularly love are my Tudor rubber ducks – I have Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, which were a Birthday present from my sister, and William Shakespeare, which was a lovely surprise from a good friend left on my desk at work after I handed in my Masters’ dissertation.
The Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn rubber ducks can be ordered from Hever Castle, and the Shakespeare one can be ordered direct from the manufacturer at Yarto, or there is a slightly different one sold by the RSC. Of course you can explore the rest Hever Castle’s shop online as there are plenty of gorgeous things you can give as gifts, particularly if you love Anne Boleyn.
People are having to find new things to do to keep themselves occupied while the world is in lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic. I’ve been a bit remiss on this blog recently through a combination of different things, but I have really been struggling to find things to keep me occupied – here is my list of some of the history-related things that are keeping me sane during this very difficult and unprecedented time.
Listening to history podcasts
There are a couple of really great history podcasts that I love, and I am getting my history fix from these, not all Tudor-related.
Natalie Grueninger talks with various people about different aspects of the Tudor period; there are currently 67 episodes covering everything from Anne Boleyn to Tudor Christmases, from Anne Clifford to the Golden Hinde.
Leanda de Lisle discusses the Tudors and Stuarts in easily digestible 10-minute chunks from Henry VI to Charles I, the Gunpowder Plot to the role of royal consort. There are plenty of topics to find something of interest to everyone.
David Crowther podcasts from his shed, currently with 286 episodes covering a history of England from the Anglo-Saxons currently up to the accession of Elizabeth I, though further episodes are to come.
This is a podcast linked to magazines like BBC History and History Revealed. It deals with historical topics from across time as well as different countries. If you’re going to find something to interest you, you’ll find it here.
Anyone who follows me on Instagram (@tudorblogger) may have been following my progress of this cross stitch project.
I’ve been making a cross stitch pin cushion of Anne Boleyn’s crowned falcon crest. I got the pattern from a friend for my birthday and absolutely adored completing it!
Below is the completed article!
If you love cross stitch and the Tudors go and check out www.sheenarogersdesigns.co.uk where this pattern came from. I’m planning on getting the other 5 pin cushions, one for each wife, and I also really want the tudor rose cushion as well as the six wives! I’m also debating the Tower of London and Hampton Court, but one thing at a time …
In the following gallery you can follow my progress over the week it took me to complete.
Romantic victim? Ruthless other woman? Innocent pawn? Religious reformer? Fool, flirt and adulteress? Politician? Witch? During her life, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s ill-fated second queen, was internationally famous – or notorious; today, she still attracts passionate adherents and furious detractors. It was in London that most of the drama of Anne Boleyn’s life and death was played out – most famously, in the Tower of London, the scene of her coronation celebrations, of her trial and execution, and where her body lies buried. Londoners, like everyone else, clearly had strong feelings about her, and in her few years as a public figure Anne Boleyn was influential as a patron of the arts and of French taste, as the centre of a religious and intellectual circle, and for her purchasing power, both directly and as a leader of fashion. It was primarily to London, beyond the immediate circle of the court, that her carefully ‘spun’ image as queen was directed during the public celebrations surrounding her coronation. [Description from Waterstones]
Thanks to Pen & Sword for the chance to read and review this book.
I did enjoy this book, and I thought that it was quite well-written and engaging. Chapman has a clear and concise tone and way of writing, which makes it easy to read and understand. Anne Boleyn was a divisive figure and this book looks at the positive and negative sides of her, without really choosing a side to fall on. It purports to examine Anne’s rise, queenship and fall through the eyes of the places she stayed in London. There are also sections on Anne’s coronation in 1533, London in general, and court in London.
I wouldn’t call this book so much a look at Anne Boleyn in London, but more a historical biography of Anne Boleyn, focused on her time in London from 1522 and her first court appearance to her death in 1536. I was expecting more about Anne’s involvement in different London locations like Whitehall, Durham House, Westminster, Hampton Court, Hatfield, Eltham, Greenwich and Richmond, but this part I felt was a little lacking. Perhaps the title of the book is a little misleading.
It has obviously been well-researched and there is plenty of reference to the primary sources, as well as to how reliable they may be, and cross-referencing different sources. There is discussion of bias and a look at different points of view about the same events, for example, ambassadors from Italy, the Papal courts, France and Spain. There is a short look at Anne’s earlier life, but it more focused on what we know about her later life.
There is a great selection of images in the centre of the book, varying from photos of places, to sketches, portraits of important people, and artefacts. The captions are all detailed and dated as far as they can be. It is a good selection from across Anne’s life and relates to what is talked about in the text itself. The cover image is also of great interest – it’s a photo of a recreation of a medal from 1534 by Lucy Churchill, one of the only definite images of Anne Boleyn.
This book is worth a read for the historical scholarship, but if you’re expecting a traipse through the London locations that Anne knew, then you might be a little disappointed. Nevertheless, an interesting and well-written biography of Anne Boleyn.