Book Review – ‘Princess of Thorns’ by Saga Hillbom


Thank you to the author for giving me a copy of this to review.

I really enjoyed this quite unique take on the Wars of the Roses and the reign of Henry VII. Told from the point of view of Cecily of York, daughter of Edward IV and sister to Elizabeth of York (wife of Henry VII) it gives a different view almost from the outside in. It also offers a fictional account of a woman at the centre of the warring factions, essentially Yorkist but forced to marry a staunch Lancastrian.

This novel has certainly made me more interested in the other York sisters and following their lives a bit more closely. I know a bit about Elizabeth of York having studied the Tudors and been introduced to her through Henry VII, but the others seem to have led interesting lives as well, so I want to read more around them.

The writing is concise and the descriptions clear, making you believe that you can see the pieces of jewellery described or be in the places that the characters are in, picturing those same characters clearly in your head though, for me at least, influenced in part by historical TV dramas like ‘The White Queen’ (eye roll). The book is quite fast-paced, but sentimental in places, and the balance between the two is exceptional.

The sibling rivalry between Cecily and her eldest sister, Elizabeth, was brilliantly done, and echoes squabbling siblings across the ages, only this was a more high-stakes environment. The jealousy of what could be perceived as the less successful or powerful sibling (Cecily) juxtaposed against the more powerful and influential queen (Elizabeth) exacerbates what I’m sure siblings today will recognise. That gives a touch of the familiar into this otherwise unrecognisable world compared to today.

If there are any lovers of historical fiction based in the Wars of the Roses or early Tudor period I would thoroughly recommend this book as it offers something unique, being written from the point of view of a woman often overlooked in history, but who at the same time was at the centre of events and who suffered many personal tragedies in her life. Saga Hillbom tells her story with sensitivity and demonstrates just how perilous life and ambition could be.

This review is also published on my sister blog BookBloggerish | For Everything Bookish (wordpress.com).

Saga Hillbom has also written a guest post for this blog on the marriage of Richard III and Anne Neville, which can be found here.

The Marriage of Richard III and Anne Neville


Today we have a guest post by Saga Hillborn, a historical fiction writer. Her new novel, ‘Princess of Thorns’ follows the story of Cecily Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV and sister to Elizabeth of York.
Saga Hillborn has very kindly contributed a post about two people who play a big role in Cecily’s story – Richard III and Anne Neville.
Her novel, ‘Princess of Thorns’ will be released on 1st March 2021.

Richard III is obviously one of western history’s most controversial figures. His relationship to his wife Anne Neville is still being both romanticised and portrayed in a negative light painting him as having taken advantage of her. In my upcoming historical novel Princess of Thorns, both Richard and Anne feature as characters; in this guest post that Helene was kind enough to let me write, I will take a closer look at their marriage.

After Edward IV had taken the throne, he placed his much younger brothers George and Richard in the household of his cousin the Earl of Warwick. Richard, who was roughly nine years old, likely met five-year-old Anne Neville for the first time at Middleham Castle. Although they would have undergone entirely different educations, it is reasonable to assume that Anne and Richard were often in one another’s company, as were the other young nobles who grew up at Middleham. It is possible that the Earl of Warwick was already planning his daughters’ eventual marriages to the King’s brothers at this point. Hence, Anne and Richard would have become accustomed to the idea.

In 1465, perhaps slightly later, Richard left Warwick’s household and spent more time at his brother Edward’s court. When Warwick and George, Duke of Clarence, rebelled for a second time in 1470, Richard fled with the King into exile in Flanders. Meanwhile, Anne was married off to the Lancastrian Edward of Westminster. What either she or Richard felt about this match is of course not recorded, but suffice to say that Edward of Westminster was a stranger and an enemy who was described by an ambassador as talking of nothing but cutting off heads.

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.
Continue reading “The Marriage of Richard III and Anne Neville”

History Resolutions for 2021


My blogging was quite uneven last year with the COVID-19 lockdown and my mental health being quite fragile. Looking forward to 2021 I really want to blog more, and not just about the Tudors and Wars of the Roses – I also have interests in the English Regency, Jack the Ripper, and the British Monarchy.

Read below for my history resolutions for 2021!

1. Blog More on Different Topics

Although my blog is called TudorBlogger, and the Tudors are my first and abiding interest, I also have really started developing other interests over the last few years so I’d love to share some of my other historical passions like the English Regency period, Jack the Ripper, and the history of the British Monarchy. I also like looking at and visiting historical sites including castles and palaces. So keep an eye out for some new content on my blog!

2. Get Up to Date on my Review Copies from Lovely Publishers!

I have a bit of a backlog on my review copies pile which I’ve received from publishers over the last year or so. Because of my mental health issues in 2020 with the lockdown I haven’t felt able to give them my full attention and didn’t want to do half-arsed reviews of them, because they deserve better. So, you can look out for reviews of the following over the next few months!

  • John Ashdown-Hill – Elizabeth Widville: Lady Grey (Pen & Sword)
  • John Matusiak – A History of the Tudors in 100 Objects (History Press)
  • Phil Carradice – Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor (Pen & Sword)
  • John Matusiak – Martyrs of Henry VIII: Repression, Defiance, Sacrifice (History Press)
  • Matthew Lewis – Richard III: Loyalty Binds Me (Amberley Publishing)
  • Kirsten Claiden-Yardley – The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk (Pen & Sword)
  • Robert Stedall – Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (Pen & 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)
  • Paul Dryburgh – Royal Seals: Images of Power and Majesty (Pen & Sword)
  • Paul Kendall – Henry VIII in 100 Objects: The Tyrant King Who Had Six Wives (Pen & Sword)
  • Nathan Amin – Henry VIII and the Tudor Pretenders: Simnel, Warbeck and Warwick (Amberley Publishing)

I also have a fiction review coming of Saga Hillborn’s ‘Princess of Thorns’ based on the life of Cecily Plantagenet, sister to Elizabeth of York and daughter of Edward IV. There will also be a surprise guest post from Saga Hillborn to coincide with the release of the book in March 2021.

3. Historical Cross Stitch

I’ve currently got 2 historical cross stitch kits to work on – a Hampton Court mini cushion kit from Sheena Rogers Designs, which you might have seen me start if you follow me on Instagram (@tudorblogger). I also have a Kings and Queens of England cross stitch which I’m excited to start once I’ve done the Hampton Court one. Last year I completed a Henry VIII and his Six Wives cross stitch during the lockdown which has now been framed and is on my study wall. If you want to follow my progress on my cross stitches, updates will be posted to my Instagram.

4. Get Up to Date on my History Podcasts

I have quite a few history podcasts that I listen to, or want to listen to, but I’m really behind on listening to them, again a mental health issue. The following are the podcasts I want to catch up with!

  • You’re Dead to Me
  • Talking Tudors
  • The History of England
  • Hashtag History
  • British History: Royals, Rebels and Romantics
  • The Tudor History & Travel Show
  • Past Loves
  • Vulgar History
  • Queens
  • Historic Royal Palaces

What are your history resolutions for 2021?

Photo by Natalia Y on Unsplash

‘Kindred Spirits: Ephemera’ by Jennifer C. Wilson


“The afterlife is alive with possibility”

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.

Also published on my sister blog https://bookbloggerish.wordpress.com/

(Historical) Algonquin Table


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.

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

Richard III

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 in 1661

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.

Oscar Wilde

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!

References

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”

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 … Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales?


Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, was the Lancastrian heir to the throne. He was the only child of the Lancastrian king, Henry VI, and his wife Margaret of Anjou. His father was overthrown in 1461 and Edward went into exile in Scotland and then France with his mother. He was the last heir apparent to die in battle, when he was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, allegedly by the future Richard III.

Name: Edward of Westminster / Edward of Lancaster

Title/s: Prince of Wales

Birth: 13 October 1453 at Westminster Palace, London, England

Death: 4 May 1471 at Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, England

Buried: Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire, England

Spouse: Anne Neville 1456-1485

Children: None

Parents: Henry VI 1421-1471 & Margaret of Anjou 1430-1482

Siblings: None

Noble Connections: Edward was the Prince of Wales, son of Henry VI of England. Through his mother, Margaret of Anjou, he was also related to the Kings of France. Through his wife, Anne Neville, he was also related to the Earls of Warwick, and distantly to Edward IV.

Continue reading “Who Was … Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales?”