Book Review: Uncrowned Queen by Nicola Tallis

Written by Rebecca Larson

Margaret Beaufort is quite possibly the most misrepresented characters of the Tudor era, but thanks to Dr. Nicola Tallis’ meticulous research we are exposed to a Margaret Beaufort that many of us have never seen before.

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Book Review: The Devil’s Slave by Tracy Borman

devils slave

After finishing The King’s Witch, Book One in the Frances Gorges trilogy, I immediately purchased Book Two: The Devil’s Slave.

The Devil’s Slave is a continuation of Frances’ story and the plots she became embroiled in to return England to Catholicism under the reign of King James I.

As a Historian and joint Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces, Tracy Borman has the perfect background to write such a book. Her knowledge easily translates with scenes that are strewn with historical detail, as well as vivid descriptions of the surroundings that bring the story and her characters to life. Having always wanted to be a fly on the wall at court, Borman’s writing style immersed me in the lives and events at the beginning of 17th century England, in a way that I had never imagined.

Frances Gorges is/was (because she WAS real) a woman who I easily connected with in The King’s Witch. She was considered a healer during a time when it constituted witchcraft, but all Frances wanted to do was help people.

*If you have not read The King’s Witch and do not want spoilers, skip the next paragraph.

In The King’s Witch, Frances lost the love of her life, Thomas Wintour, when he was executed for treason because of his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. After Thomas’ death Frances found herself in mourning and pregnant with the child of a traitor. Unmarried and having already been accused of witchcraft, Frances needed a plan. Would she raise her child on her own, and would she continue plotting to avenge her love’s death? In the Devil’s Slave, Frances once again loses people whom she loves dearly…but who will it be this time?

With a touch of Elizabethan history, Sir Walter Raleigh encourages Frances from the Tower of London to help carry out the Catholic schemes. Risking everything, Frances discovers that listening to Raleigh may be her only option – but it could also lead to her utter destruction.

The Devil’s Slave is a wonderful story a lady whose convictions are easily used against her – but Frances is a woman with a past who won’t make the same mistakes twice. Outside forces are pulling the strings, and Frances will do what she has to to take back control.

The Devil’s Slave is a wonderful story a lady whose convictions are easily used against her – but Frances is a woman with a past who won’t make the same mistakes twice. Outside forces are pulling the strings, and Frances will do what she has to to take back control.

Will Frances choose the path of the devil, or will she allow her faith to show her the way?

Book Two does not disappoint, and it leaves you anxiously awaiting Book Three with the conclusion of Frances’ story.

Tracy Borman is creating quite a career for herself in the historical fiction arena! Who knew someone could make the court of King James I interesting?!

Want to listen to my podcast interview with Tracy Borman? Click Here

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Book Review: “Henry VIII – and the Men Who Made Him” by Tracy Borman

Jane Seymour (1)

I purchased this book with a bit of hesitation because my library is full of book on the most infamous Tudor king. I wondered if Borman would be able to open my mind to any new information, or if I would be disappointed in the regurgitated information that I have read over the years.

Here is a bit about the book in case you are not familiar:

Henry VIII is best known in history for his tempestuous marriages and the fates of his six wives. However, as acclaimed historian Tracy Borman makes clear in her illuminating new chronicle of Henry?s life, his reign and reputation were hugely influenced by the men who surrounded and interacted with him as companions and confidants, servants and ministers, and occasionally as rivals?many of whom have been underplayed in previous biographies.

These relationships offer a fresh, often surprising perspective on the legendary king, revealing the contradictions in his beliefs, behavior, and character in a nuanced light. They show him capable of fierce but seldom abiding loyalty, of raising men up only to destroy them later. He loved to be attended by boisterous young men, the likes of his intimate friend Charles Brandon, who shared his passion for sport, but could also be diverted by men of intellect, culture, and wit, as his longstanding interplay with Cardinal Wolsey and his reluctant abandonment of Thomas More attest. Eager to escape the shadow of his father, Henry VII, he was often trusting and easily led by male attendants and advisors early in his reign (his coronation was just shy of his 18th birthday in 1509); in time, though, he matured into a profoundly suspicious and paranoid king whose ruthlessness would be ever more apparent, as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and uncle to two of Henry?s wives, discovered to his great discomfort, and as Eustace Chapuys, the ambassador of Charles V of Spain, often reported.

Recounting the great Tudor?s life and signal moments through the lens of his male relationships, Tracy Borman?s new biography reveals Henry?s personality in all its multi-faceted, contradictory glory, and sheds fresh light on his reign for anyone fascinated by the Tudor era and its legacy.”

The author of this book, Tracy Borman, is a Historian and “joint Chief Curator for?Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that manages Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, the Banqueting House, Whitehall and Hillsborough Castle.” Borman also is a frequent visitor to our TV screens with appearances of historical programs. Many of us believe she has one of the best jobs in the entire world.

Keeping all that in mind, Borman has amazing access to documents and history that many of us could only dream about. She shows her skill as a researcher and writing in this piece of nonfiction. If you believe that you know everything there is to know about Henry VIII I implore you to read this book.

With the interesting insight of the men who surrounded the King we can see how loyalty could both raise you to great heights and bring you down in a spectacular fashion. We also learn that Thomas Cranmer’s undying loyalty to his King is what inevitably saved him during the reign of the fearsome Tudor king. We learn from the book that after the death of King Henry that Cranmer wept by his bedside and in honor (most likely) of his king he began to grow out his beard. Cranmer went on to be a father figure to Edward VI.

I really do not want to spoil this book for you – please pick up a copy and see for yourself. Borman’s ability to report history in an easy to read manner is refreshing and definitely puts her at the top of my list of favorite authors. I have also read her book on Thomas Cromwell, as well as Elizabeth’s Women – both fantastic reads. Currently I am reading her book Private Lives of the Tudors.

Find this book online:

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Book Review: Margaret Tudor – The Life of Henry VIII’s Sister

Jane Seymour (2)

Margaret Tudor was an English Princess and daughter of the first Tudor monarch, King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York; Margaret was the sister of King Henry VIII and married King James IV of Scotland – did I mention she was also mother of King James V?

I was approached by Pens & Sword History to write a review on the book?Margaret Tudor: The Life of Henry VIII’s Sister?by author and historian Melanie Clegg, and happily accepted the opportunity to learn more about one of the Tudor siblings. I tend to focus on the life of her brother and so I found this as a great opportunity to learn more about this magnificent woman.

Excerpt from Amazon.com:

When the thirteen year old Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York, married King James IV of Scotland in a magnificent proxy ceremony held at Richmond Palace in January 1503, no one could have guessed that this pretty, redheaded princess would go on to have a marital career as dramatic and chequered as that of her younger brother Henry VIII.

Left widowed at the age of just twenty three after her husband was killed by her brother?s army at the battle of Flodden, Margaret was made Regent for her young son and was temporarily the most powerful woman in Scotland – until she fell in love with the wrong man, lost everything and was forced to flee the country. In a life that foreshadowed that of her tragic, fascinating granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots, Margaret hurtled from one disaster to the next and ended her life abandoned by virtually everyone: a victim both of her own poor life choices and of the simmering hostility between her son, James V and her brother, Henry VIII.

My Review:

Margaret Tudor, if she had been born male, would have been no different from any other King of England, and if she lived in the modern world may have been a force to be reckoned with. When I read books about royal women who are ruled by men it leaves me frustrated. Frustrated for them, that is. In this book I put myself in Margaret’s shoes and felt the frustration when her conniving husbands stole her money (which, by the way they could because men ruled women) and left her nearly penniless. It was in those moments that you see a Margaret Tudor who was very much like her brother Henry. She was also fiercely protective of her children.

Margaret was not afraid to ask her brother Henry VIII for help when she needed it. It appears that she took her role in Scotland very seriously and wished to keep relations between the two countries stable. Unfortunately for Margaret, both her brother and first husband, King James IV of Scotland were men who did not back down from a fight.

Because of this book I now look at James IV much differently than I used to, and this has piqued my interested to learn more about him. He appears to have been good to his queen consort even though he had mistresses and many illegitimate children. Something Margaret, like her grandmother Elizabeth Woodville, learned to live with because she was treated so well.

When James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden the Regent in England (Katherine of Aragon) contemplated sending the dead king’s body to her husband while he was fighting in France, but instead only sent his blood-stained surcoat. I was very interested in how the author described how Henry VIII would have reacted had she sent the body…but I do not want to ruin the story for you.

This story is a quick and entertaining read and is well-written and researched. At moments I nearly forgot I was reading non-fiction because Clegg did such an amazing job putting together all the pieces and painting a picture of Margaret’s life in detail.

What did I take from this book??Margaret had the Tudor fiery temper and stubbornness. She also ruled with the heart, something her granddaughter (Mary, Queen of Scots) would be claimed of as well.

If you love to learn about the Tudor dynasty I highly recommend buying this book. This book will be released in the US on January 4th.

Amazon – US (discounted pre-order price available now!)

Amazon – UK

Book Review: “The Survival of the Princes in the Tower” by Matthew Lewis

Jane Seymour (3)

Shared & Written by Heidi Malagisi of Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

35888548One of the greatest mysteries of all time is what happened to the young princes, the sons of Edward IV, who were held in the Tower of London. Many people believed that they were killed. There are some who believe that Richard III had them murdered and there are some who say that Henry VII ordered the deed to be done. But what if they were never killed? What if they survived? That is the premise of Matthew Lewis’s book “The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth”.

I have always been one of those people who believed that the princes were indeed murdered and that the one who ordered their murders was Richard III. I have read the “sources” and I came to my own conclusions. A few months ago, I attended the Tudor Summit (for those of you who do not know what this, look it up it is a fantastic two- day summit with fellow Tudor nerds) and one of the speakers was Matthew Lewis. Normally I don’t pay attention to the Ricardian side of this debate, but his talk made me interested, so I decided to read his book.

I am really glad I decided to read this book. It gave me something new to think about when it comes to this mystery and it did it in such a constructive way that made sense. Lewis starts his book by exploring the facts and the different sources that made the case that the princes were murdered, and then he looks at why these sources have been misinterpreted and don’t tell the whole story. For example, the fact that More said that Edward IV died in his fifties when in fact he died when he was in his forties, which is a big age gap.  Lewis asks rather obvious questions about the anti- Ricardian argument like why did Elizabeth Woodville turn over to her sons if she believed that Richard III was truly evil. It was by going through these sources and these obvious questions that started to create a lot of doubt in my mind whether or not the side I was on in this debate was accurate.

Lewis then dives into the lives of those we call the “pretenders”, Lambert Simnel and image015Perkin Warbeck. These were the most famous pretenders and the ones who challenged Henry VII’s right to the throne. If they were really the princes in the tower, why were they defeated? Why were they considered pretenders? Lewis explores other people who could possibly be the princes, including a theory by amateur art historian Jack Leslau on “The Family of Sir Thomas More” by Hans Holbein the Younger.

The theory that Matthew Lewis presents in this book is very unique. In order to understand what he is trying to do, you have to be open to a different perspective on this quagmire of a topic: the princes in the tower. There are certain books that come along and totally shake what you believe in, but you should not be afraid to read these kinds of books. I did not know what to expect when I started this book, but Lewis presented an argument that made sense and made me question everything I thought I knew about this mystery. Now I want to reread the sources and try to understand them better. I would recommend this book for anyone who thinks Richard III is innocent, guilty, or you are unsure of your position in this debate. “The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth” by Matthew Lewis breathes new life into this debate and begs the question: what if the princes in the tower lived?

BUY THIS BOOK

Amazon – US

Amazon – UK

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Book Review: “Forsaking All Other” by Catherine Meyrick

Jane Seymour (4)

I love reading fiction. Especially fiction books within the Tudor era I was honored to receive a review copy of this book from the author and I’m so happy to tell you about it. I finished this book well over a month ago and finally got around to finishing a review for it. I wanted to make sure it received a proper review and not one that was rushed.

About the Author

Catherine Meyrick is a writer of historical fiction with a particular love of Elizabethan England. Her stories weave fictional characters into the gaps within the historical record – tales of ordinary people who are very much men and women of their time, yet in so many ways not unlike ourselves.

Although she grew up in regional Victoria, Australia, she has lived all her adult life in Melbourne. She has worked as a nurse, a tax assessor and finally a librarian. She has a Master of Arts in history and is also a family history obsessive.

From Amazon:

England 1585.

Bess Stoughton, waiting woman to the well-connected Lady Allingbourne, has discovered that her father is arranging for her to marry an elderly neighbour. Normally obedient Bess rebels and wrests from her father a year’s grace to find a husband more to her liking.

Edmund Wyard, a taciturn and scarred veteran of England’s campaign in Ireland, is attempting to ignore the pressure from his family to find a suitable wife as he prepares to join the Earl of Leicester’s army in the Netherlands.

Although Bess and Edmund are drawn to each other, they are aware that they can have nothing more than friendship. Bess knows that Edmund’s wealth and family connections place him beyond her reach. And Edmund, with his well-honed sense of duty, has never considered that he could follow his own wishes.

With England on the brink of war and fear of Catholic plots extending even into Lady Allingbourne’s household, time is running out for both of them.

My Review

Bess evolves throughout the story and her character softened a bit as the story unraveled. It began with Bess returning home for her father to arrange a second marriage for her after the death of her first husband, another arranged marriage. Upon returning home Bess was reminded of the loss of her mother and the much younger woman her father married immediately afterward as well as the children they conceived through that marriage. Her half-siblings.

As Bess insisted that she could not possibly like her half-siblings she eventually warmed to her younger sisters and step-mother through her concern and dislike of her father’s choice of a husband. A wealthy, elderly neighbor whom her mother never liked nor trusted.

Bess, afraid that she would have to marry old man fled her father’s home with the help of her step-sister. She left behind a note stating that if she did not find a suitable husband within one year that she would marry the old man her father wished her to. That is where the story of Bess really began.

Throughout this story we are introduced to several men that could become a great choice for a husband for Bess, however, she fell for the one man that she never expected to which led her into a very dangerous situation.

I really don’t want to say much more than that because I do not want to ruin the surprises in the story for you. I would highly recommend that you buy this book and enjoy it for the wonderful tale that is told within its beautifully crafted pages.