Book Review – ‘Tudor Victims of the Reformation’ by Lynda Telford


Lynda Telford 'Tudor Victims of the Reformation'

This book describes a selection of people caught up in the turmoil that presaged the reformation – a period of change instigated by a king whose desire for a legitimate son was to brutally sweep aside an entire way of life. The most famous and influential of the victims were the two people closest to Henry VIII. His mentor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a great churchman and a diplomat of consummate skill. The other was to be the King’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. These two adversaries, equally determined to succeed, had risen above the usual expectations of their time. Wolsey, of humble birth, became a price of the church, enjoying his position to the full, before coming into conflict with a woman who had no intention of being another passing fancy for the king. She would become the mother of one of the greatest and most famous of England’s monarchs. They were brought down by the factions surrounding them and the selfish indifference of the man they thought they could trust. Though they succumbed to the forces aligned against them, their courage and achievements are remembered, and their places in history assured. [Description from Pen & Sword]

Thanks to Pen and Sword Books for the chance to read this in exchange for an honest review.

This book doesn’t really cover the victims of the Reformation, so much as it focuses on the lives of two of them: Thomas Wolsey and Anne Boleyn, so it only really covers up to 1536, which is really when the Reformation picked up pace. This means that there is nothing really about Katherine Parr, Anne Askew or the Pilgrimage of Grace, two key figure and one key event in the history of the Reformation, and it doesn’t go into the reign of Edward IV or Elizabeth I, or the counter-Reformation under Mary I, so the title is a little misleading.

There were also a few errors. For example, the Duke of Buckingham executed in 1521 was at a few points referred to as George Stafford, when he was actually called Edward. At one point it was also claimed that Henry VIII acceded to the throne in 1501 when he actually came to the throne in 1509. A good proof-reader would have caught and resolved these problems. They don’t, however, detract from the good tone and writing of the book in general.

I didn’t like that there were no chapter titles, as if you are looking for a particular year, especially when the book is written chronologically as this one is, it should be easy to find a particular period of time. The chapters also don’t always seem to finish where it feels natural that they should. The index is incomplete – for example the pages listed about Anne Boleyn don’t include when she was elevated to the peerage, or about her imprisonment and trial. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘Tudor Victims of the Reformation’ by Lynda Telford”

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Discussion Questions – “Katherine of Aragon: the True Queen” by Alison Weir


  • Throughout the book, Alison Weir shows how Katherine was raised to confirm to contemporary cultural and religious norms, and how this influenced her thinking and her actions. What impression did this make on you, and did it aid your understanding of her dilemmas and conflicts? Did this take on her story allow you to empathise more closely with Katherine’s choices?
Alison Weir
Alison Weir

I think that the standards and norms of 16th century England were very different to today. People believed very strongly in God and in the existence of heaven and hell and purgatory. They saw their lives on earth as a prelude to the afterlife. I think my background in history really helps me to understand the cultural and religious norms of the 16th century. I think that the understanding of the dilemmas and conflicts that Katherine faces in the novel depend on the contemporary culture and standards. You can’t understand Katherine’s motivations and feelings without understanding the context of the 16th century. I think that the emphasis on her religious devotions and the wellbeing of her soul were the central considerations for Katherine and understanding this made me understand more about what drove her to make the choices she did – she wasn’t being stubborn on purpose, she really believed she was saving her soul, and that of her husband. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – “Katherine of Aragon: the True Queen” by Alison Weir”

Who’s Who of Tudor History


Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

Aragon, Katherine of = First Queen to Henry VIII, marriage annulled 1533, died 1536.

Ashley, Kat = Governess and close friend to Elizabeth I from her childhood. Died 1565.

Aske, Robert = One of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. Executed 1537.

Beaufort, Margaret = Mother to Henry VII. Outlived her son and saw the accession of her grandson, Henry VIII.

Blount, Bessie = Henry VIII’s mistress, and the only one to give him an acknowledged illegitimate child – Henry Fitzroy.

Boleyn, Anne = Second Queen to Henry VIII, executed 1536 for adultery and incest.

Boleyn, George = Brother to Henry VIII’s second Queen. Accused of adultery and incest with his sister. Executed 1536.

Boleyn, Mary = Sister of Henry VIII’s second Queen. Mistress of Henry VIII. Died 1543.

Brandon, Charles  Duke of Suffolk and best friend to Henry VIII. Married Henry VIII’s sister, Mary. Died 1546. Continue reading “Who’s Who of Tudor History”

Book Review – ‘VIII’ by H.M. Castor


H.M. Castor 'VIII'
H.M. Castor ‘VIII’

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”

Historical Errors in ‘The Tudors’ Series One


Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII in 'The Tudors (2007-2010).
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII in ‘The Tudors (2007-2010).

Episode 1 “In Cold Blood”
Assassination of the Duke of Urbino – Henry VIII had no uncle at this time, and so the scene that was included was completely made up.
Charles Brandon and the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham – there is no evidence of Brandon having an affair with any daughter of Buckingham.
Richard Pace – Pace was never accused of spying and was never imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Thomas Tallis – there is no record of Tallis being at court until 1543, not as early as is portrayed in ‘The Tudors’.
Katherine of Aragon’s first son – in the television show, Katherine of Aragon says that he lived for four weeks, but it was actually seven and a half weeks.
Marriage of Bessie Blount – in the television show, Bessie Blount is already married during her affair with the king, but in reality she didn’t marry until 1522.
Thomas Boleyn’s family – Buckingham refers to Boleyn’s family as “old” but in reality his grandfather was Mayor of London, and before that the family was rather obscure. Boleyn only had noble connections because his wife was the sister of the Duke of Norfolk. Continue reading “Historical Errors in ‘The Tudors’ Series One”

Potted History of Tudor Palaces


Greenwich Palace no longer stands, but it was the birthplace of Henry VIII, as well as both of his daughters, Mary I and Elizabeth I. It used to be known as the Palace of Placentia and was built in 1433 by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, in the reign of the pious King Henry VI. The Palace fell into disrepute during the English Civil War, and was later demolished and replaced with the Greenwich Hospital (now the Old Royal Naval College) in the late 17th century.

Eltham Palace was the childhood home of Henry VIII and was built in 1295. Henry stayed here even as Prince of Wales, rather than go to Ludlow. At one point, it was bigger even than Hampton Court Palace. Even as Henry got older and when he became king, he continued to prize Eltham, putting some of its features into Hampton Court, and he remodelled Eltham itself 1519-22. Only small sections now remain as it fell into disrepute after Henry’s death. Continue reading “Potted History of Tudor Palaces”