This is a topic that I am extremely passionate about – historical fiction, and history. Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir are quite possibly the most well-known authors on Tudor history. Both women are historians, both women are authors. While Gregory appears to only write historical fiction, Weir began her popular career writing non-fiction, and then transformed into what I would consider fiction/historical fiction.
Before I delve into the topic I must confess that I am a fan of historical fiction. I began reading books by Jean Plaidy and Philippa Gregory when my interest in the Tudor was first piqued at the beginning of the new millennium. Gregory’s books in the Cousin’s War series like The Red Queen, The White Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughters gave me the history that led up to the Tudors, and made me want to understand how that history impacted the Tudor dynasty. But before I jumped in with both feet (to the Tudors), I wanted to know more about the White Queen (Elizabeth Woodville) and her husband, King Edward IV. To this day they are still my favorite King and Queen consort because of Gregory’s books and my subsequent research. With that I began searching for every article I could find online about the well-known couple.
Programs like The Tudors pulled in millions of viewer to explore the exciting world of Henry VIII and his court – led by the handsome Jonathan Rhys Meyers (JRM) as Henry VIII one could not help but get pulled into his world of opulence, sport, love and politics. It was everything I could have asked for as someone who was wanting to envision this world of centuries ago. It was easy for me to put aside the fact that JRM had no true resemblance to the infamous king because he was able to make me believe he was indeed the man through (in my opinion) his superb acting skill. The same goes for his queens, Katherine of Aragon (KoA) and Anne Boleyn. As we know KoA was not a brunette, yet Maria Doyle Kennedy was able to transport me back in time to the plight of KoA through her acting chops. Anne Boleyn, who was played by the marvelous Natalie Dormer, did not have blue eyes, yet I was able to see past that as well. The point that I am trying to make is that the writing is what transported me back in time to the first half of the sixteenth century, not the accuracy.
While there are many historical purists who wish to discount any piece of historical fiction, I tend to promote, and encourage those wanting to learn about the dynasty to start with historical fiction, and then move to non-fiction when they want to learn the real history – because, let’s be honest, in most cases the two fall very closely together.
The beauty of historical fiction is that the author is allowed to fill in the gaps – to tell the story where we do not have actual contemporary evidence to do it for us. This is generally where the problems come in. In Gregory’s book The White Queen she writes that Elizabeth Woodville and her mother Jacquetta used spells and “witchcraft” to get the King of England to marry her – after the disappearance of her sons, the princes in the Tower, Woodville placed a curse on the people responsible for the disappearance of her sons in the Tower of London. There is no evidence that either occurred but it makes the story even more interesting, especially when she curses her son’s murderer to have no male heir…enter the Tudors. The connection that to this day people still believe to be true because they have not done further research.
On the other hand, Weir claims in her newest book on Anne of Cleves called Anna of Kleve – the Princess in the Portrait, that Anne was no virgin. Using this contemporary report as her basis:
Surely, as ye know, I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse. For I have felt her belly and her breast, and thereby, as I can judge, she should be no maid… [The] which struck me so to the heart when I felt them that I had neither will nor courage to proceed any further in other matters… I have left her as good a maid as I found her.”
This makes it seem to those who do not know better that *spoiler alert* Anne was no virgin – that she had given birth prior to her marriage to King Henry. Using a online marketing machine to spread the message has not helped Anne’s true story be told, only to perpetuate the myth even further.
While I will always defend historical fiction, I also see it as my responsibility to clear the air, so to speak – to leave my readers or followers with examples of nonfiction, or contemporary reports that examine the scene more thoroughly. Case in point, Heather R. Darsie’s book called Anna, Duchess of Cleves – the King’s Beloved Sister, in this book the author explains a different side of the story that had not been told my the English during the downfall of her marriage to the King. This time we see what I now believe to be the true story – that politics is what destroyed their marriage, not Anne.
I implore all of you to read historical fiction for entertainment and early learning – then move forward and research further to discover the true stories of these fascinating people. Do not assume that everything you read in historical fiction is fact. Assume otherwise and learn for yourself…that’s the fun part – in my opinion.
I was having a difficult time coming up with a topic for this week’s podcast. I reached out to my followers on Facebook and a couple of them mentioned that they would be interested in finding out what got me interested in The Tudor dynasty in the first place. I thought it was a fantastic idea and so I ran with it.
This episode begins talking about Henry VII and the Battle of Bosworth as well as Elizabeth of York and leads up to the birth of Prince Arthur.
I discuss my genealogy, my DNA, favorite programs and so much more. If you really want to get a feel for who I am and what drives me then you’ll love this episode.
*side note – I discovered later that I am NOT related to the person I mentioned. It was a bad hint. (You’ll know what this means after you listen)
As always, I say thank you to all my patrons and to those of you who have supported over the years. Thanks again!
A very special thank you to Nathen Amin for allowing me to share the quote from his social media account.
The Tudor dynasty is pretty well known in history having been popularized by icons like Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and Edward VI. While we may have much of the Tudors in history books, there remains one question that lingers in minds of people: “Was drug use common in times of Tudor?”
There have been speculations that William Shakespeare may have used drugs after an investigation of clay pipes that were found near his house showed traces of narcotics. In the ancient times, opiateswere used for medicinal purposes. In Sumeria about 4000 B.C.E., opium was regarded as the ‘plant of joy’ and it grew in places like Persia and ancient Egypt.
It is thought that some of the Shakespeare’s work may have been influenced by drugs. During the examination of the 24 pipes it was also revealed that two of them has coca plant traces, however, it is unlikely that Stratford-upon-Avon, England could have had the plant in the 16th century. Coca plant isn’t a native herb for England. Coca leaves, which were used to derive cocaine in the 19th century, came from Peru. The Inca of Peru used coca leaves as medicine and stimulant; however, they may not have been introduced to Europe because the Spanish didn’t have that interest. What was commonly imported during that time is Cannabis sativa, but again, it was mainly used in making ropes and clothes, and rarely, if at all, was it used to make joints.
16th Century Binge Drink of the Tudors
The use of drugs for recreational purposes may be dating back to the ancient times as the Shakespeare’s story tells it, however, another supporting element about drug and alcohol abuse is that of binge drinking during the Tudor times. The Tudors may have been worried about binge drinking and the violence what was related to alcohol use. When you see scenes of drunken people in British towns and streets, you may begin to think that our modern society has loose morals, but this is a phenomenon that existed many centuries ago.
Alcohol abuse was highly common during the Tudor period as history literature work reveals. Binge-drinking was a problem during that time, just as it is now. The extraordinary drinking habits associated with the Tudor people show that beer was taken for breakfast because people believed that it was healthier than water. Abuse of alcohol brought about many habits that we see today, and at some point, Elizabeth I had to personally intervene by issuing a ban that aimed to stop the taking of a high-strength drink referred to as the as ‘double double beer.’
Alcohol abuse was so widespread that it prompted a personal intervention by Elizabeth I, who issued a ban on the super-strength drink ‘double double beer’. But despite the ban, her courtiers could still guzzle greater amounts of ale. In 1552, at times of Edward VI, overconsumption of ale resulted in an order that required ‘alehouses’ to get a license.
Psychoactive Drugs Are Part of Our History
The modern society may be irrational and deceitful with the perception of drugs. The ancient society and communities may not have had problems with the recreational use of drugs, but today, it is a different story. During the medieval and Tudor times, heavy drinking was thought to be part of rural life and people could take weaker bear rather than water believing that water would bring diseases to them. Drunkenness wasn’t so problematic during the pre-industrial time unlike what we see today.
However, in the 18th century, urban populations started taking gin in extreme quantities bringing about concerns on the use of alcohol. An indication of moral outrage was seen with the Hogarth’s renowned engraving, “Gin Lane.” The gin consumption problem may have been characterized by increased crime, debt, and prostitution, a situation that culminated to initiation and implementation of the 18th century “Gin Acts.” These Acts are seen as the first legislative efforts to bring control over the use of substances that altered the mind. A similar thing happened with the opium, which was widely used during the 19th century. Psychoactive drugs have been used in many communities and societies throughout history. The substances would be used to ease dreary emotions and physical pain, for pleasure, and to induce religious ecstasy or increase concentration.
In a time of Elizabethans in England, most of the recreational drugs came in form of tobacco and alcohol. While there may be no historical literature that talks about the use of drugs, the presence of hallucinogen-derived nutmeg and cannabis in smoking pipes used at that time tends to suggest that people may have gotten high. The alcohol industry in Tudor times seems to have thrived strongly, and this may be reflected by the creation of the now, nonexistence jobs like ale-conner. This was a position that John, the Shakespeare’s father gave to Stratford. The task of ale-conner was to test beer quantity- he did this by pouring the beer over the bench where he would sit in it in his leather trousers. The assumption was that if the trousers the ale-conner was in stuck on the bench, then the drink was considered to be off.
With the Tudors, the strong beer was preferred by those who sought to get drunk fast, and that’s what we see today. During that time, it was given names as the “dragon’s milk,” “dagger ale,” or “mad dog.” But the beer was mostly imported and a recent arrival in the community.
Pre-contemporary societies of the medieval times may have used mind-altering substances, at least, of some kind without encountering societal condemnation. Papaver somniferum (opium) is said to be native to communities of the southern and central Europe, Middle East, Mediterranean region, and North Africa. Ancient Physicians also prescribed opium to treat many ailments like a cough, diarrhea, and pain. These are examples of how early the use of mind-altering substances may have existed.
While there may be no much history writing that clearly relates the society of the Tudor times with using drugs such as opiates, there are suggestions that it could have happened. The Shakespeare’s story leaves a lot to be desired regarding the use of narcotics and other drugs.
Early on in her marriage with the King of England Katherine of Aragon found herself very loyal to Spain and her father, Ferdinand of Aragon. Author, Alison Weir states in her bookÂ The Six Wives of Henry VIII, that Katherine greatly influenced her husband on the interests of Spain â€“ sometimes more than the interests of England.
It was obvious that Katherine was still very loyal to her father and her home country. At this point in their marriage Katherine was Henryâ€™s â€śgo-toâ€ť on advice of any nature and she would not approve anything without her fatherâ€™s sanction. My how things changed in twenty years.
In 1511, with the assistance from his queen, Henry VIII had grown very fond of Ferdinand of Aragon and it appeared he would do anything to appease his wife and father-in-law. Along with her father, Katherine began to turn her husbandâ€™s mind against France â€“ the enemy of Spain. This feat was not necessarily a difficult one because Henry hated the French anyway. Henry VIII had become war-hungry and was contemplating war with France before the pressure was put on him from Katherine to do so. He believed that England had a claim on France through his predecessorâ€™sďż˝victories. Henry V had won France in the Battle of Agincourt and unfortunately over the years France gained its independence back. The Kingďż˝felt that France should be his and was anxious to defeat the French in battle and go down in history as a victorious king.
In November of 1511, the plotting of Katherine and her father came to fruition when Henry agreed to sign the Treaty of Westminster â€“ Henry and Ferdinand pledged to help each other against their mutual enemy, France.
In 1512, Henry VIII sent an army into France; They failed miserably.
Katherine convinced her husband to mount another attack upon France in 1513. The King led this attack himself instead of putting his trust into one of his men. Ferdinand of Aragonďż˝was also mountingďż˝an offense against France at the same time. The Venetian Ambassador is quoted as saying, â€śthe King is bent on war, the Council is averse to it; the Queen will have it, and the wisest Councillors in England cannot stand against the Queen.â€ť That statement says a lot about the power of persuasion Katherine had over her husband.
This article will chronicle the Battle of Flodden and Katherineâ€™s involvement as regent of England. Please bear in mind that Katherine of Aragon was pregnant with her third child at this time, something which is not often spoken about. The pregnant regent who went to war with Scotland.
King Henry along with the pregnant Queen Katherine by his side, road from London to Dover at the head of 11,000 men. At Dover castle Henry officially named Katherine regent upon his departure. He had commanded the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham and the elderly (70-year-old) Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey as her advisers.
The King had requested that the Earl of Surrey escort Katherine back to London. Katherine was very distraught for Henryâ€™s safety when she bid him farewell at Dover, but Surrey was able to comfort her on their way back to London and calm her nerves.
By late July in 1513,ďż˝Katherine, the regent, was informed at Richmond Palace that the Scots were planning an attack on England and were beginning to mobilize their troops. Scotland, and King James IV were allies with France. They were aware that the King was in France at the time and probably assumed that they could easily defeat an English army while the King was absent from his throne.
On the 22 August 1513, the Scottish king (James IV) had an army of 80,000 men strong that crossed the border into England. They advanced into Northumberland. At the same time the Scots entered England, Surrey was heading north with his troops to meet them.
Queen Katherine received news of Henryâ€™s victory at Thďż˝rouanne on the 25th of August. She immediately wrote a letter of congratulations to Wolsey:
Master Almoner; what comfort I have with the good tidings of your letter I need not write it to you; for the very account that I have sheweth it the victory hath been so great, that I think none such hath been seen before: all England hath cause to thank God of it, and I especially, seeing that the King beginneth so well, which is to me a great hope that the end shall be like. I pray God send the same shortly, for if this continue so still, I trust in Him that every thing shall follow thereafter to the Kingâ€™s pleasure and my comfort. Mr. Almoner, for the pains ye take remembering to write to me so often, I thank you for it with all my heart, praying you to continue still sending me word how the King doeth, and if he keep still his good rule as he began, I think, with the company of the Emperor, and with his good council his grace shall not adventure himself so much as I was afraid of before. I was very glad to hear the meeting of them both, which hath been, to my facying, the greatest honour to the King that ever came to prince. The Emperor hath done every thing like himself. I trust to God he shall be thereby known for one of the gallantest princes in the world, and taken for another man that he was before thought. Mr. Almoner, I think myself that I am so bound to him for my part, that in my letters I beseech the King to recommend me unto him; and if his grace thinketh that this shall be well done, I pray you to remember it. News from hence I have none, but such as I am sure the council have advertised the King of*, and therby ye see Almighty God helpeth here our part, as well as there. I trowe the cause is asâ€¦..here say, that the King disposeth himself to him so well, that I hope allâ€¦shall be the better for his honour, and with this I make an end at â€¦.the xxv day of August.
While Henry was away dominating the French Katherine had to defend England when James IV of Scotland took the opportunity to invade England on behalf of his ally, France, while the King was away.
When James IV crossed the border into England, the queen rallied 40,000 soldiers and emulated her mother Isabel I of Castile. Katherine urged the troops to defend their country and â€śremember that the Lord smiled upon those whose stood in defense of their own! Remember that the English courage excels that of all other nations upon Earth!â€ť
In early September Katherine traveled north to Buckingham where she awaited news from Surrey â€“ while waiting she made a speech to the reserve troops who were camped outside the town. She urged them to victory for Englandâ€™s just cause against the Scots. However, the reserve troops would not need to fight because word would soon arrive of Surreyâ€™s victory at Flodden on 9 September 1513. It turned out to be one of the bloodiest battles ever seen in British history. Ten thousand Scots lay dead on the moor and among them was their king, James IV. Surrey sent the Queen the Scottish kingâ€™s banner and the bloody coat he had died in as their trophies. Katherine in turn sent them to Henry as proof of their victory. Along with the trophies she sent this letter to Henry:
My Lord Howard hath sent me a letter open to your Grace, within one of mine, by the which you shall see at length the great Victory that our Lord hath sent your subjects in your absence; and for this cause there is no need herein to trouble your Grace with long writing, but, to my thinking, this battle hath been to your Grace and all your realm the greatest honor that could be, and more than you should win all the crown of France; thanked be God of it, and I am sure your Grace forgetteth not to do this, which shall be cause to send you many more such great victories, as I trust he shall do. My husband, for hastiness, with Rougecross I could not send your Grace the piece of the King of Scots coat which John Glynn now brings. In this your Grace shall see how I keep my promise, sending you for your banners a kingďż˝s coat. I thought to send himself unto you, but our Englishmensďż˝ hearts would not suffer it. It should have been better for him to have been in peace than have this reward. All that God sends is for the best.
My Lord of Surrey, my Henry, would fain know your pleasure in the burying of the King of Scotsďż˝ body, for he has written to me so. With the next messenger your Graceďż˝s pleasure may be herein known. And with this I make an end, praying God to send you home shortly, for without this no joy here can be accomplished; and for the same I pray, and now go to Our Lady of Walsingham that I promised so long ago to see. At Woburn the 16th of September.
I send your Grace herein a bill found in a Scotsmanďż˝s purse of such things as the French King sent to the said King of Scots to make war against you, beseeching you to send Mathew hither as soon as this messenger comes to bring me tidings from your Grace.
Your humble wife and true servant, Katharine. -ďż˝Â Hanson, Marilee. â€śLetter from Katharine of Aragon to her husband, King Henry VIII 16 September 1513â€łďż˝ďż˝
Here is a contemporary account of the events at the Battle of Flodden:
When the two armies were within three miles of each other Surrey challenged the King of Scots toďż˝battle, by Rugecross; who answered he would wait for him till Friday at noon. At eleven on 9 Sept. Howard passed the bridge of Twyssell with the vanguard and artillery, Surrey following with the rear. The army was divided into twoÂ battles, each with two wings. The Scotch army was divided into fivebattles, each a bowshot distant from the other, and all equally distant from the English, â€śin grete plumpes, part of them quadrant,â€ť and some pikewise, and were on the top of the hill, being â€śa quarter of a mile from the foot thereof.â€ť Howard caused the van to stale in a little valley till the rear joined one of the wings of hisÂ battle; then both advanced in line against the Scots, who came down the hill, and met them â€śin good order, after the Almayns manner, without speaking a word.â€ť Earls of Huntley, Eroll, and Crawford met Howard with 6,000 men, but were soon put to flight, and most of them slain. The King of Scots with a great power attacked Surrey, who had Lord Darcyâ€™s son on his left. These two bore the brunt of theÂ battle. James was slain within a spearâ€™s length of Surrey; many noblemen with him; no prisoners taken. At the same time, Lennox and Argyle joinedÂ battleÂ with Sir Edward Stanley, and were put to flight. Edmund Howard was on the right-wing of Lord Howard with 1,000 Cheshire and 500 Lancashire men, and many gentlemen of Yorkshire, who were defeated by the Lord Chamberlain of Scotland (Alex. lord Hume). Mr. Gray and Sir Humphrey Lyle are taken prisoners, Sir Wynchard Harbottle and Maurice Barkley slain; Edm. Howard was thrice â€śfeled,â€ť when Dacre came to his relief and routed the Scots, after having eight score of his men slain. TheÂ battleÂ began between 4 and 5 in the afternoon, and the chase was continued three miles with great slaughter; 10,000 more would have been slain if the English had been horsed.
The Scots were 80,000, of whom 10,000 were killed; the English lost only 400. [â€śThe Borders not only stale away as they lost 4 or 5,000 horses, but also they took away the oxen that drew the ordnance, and came to the pavilions and took away all the stuff therein, and killed many that kept the same.â€ťÂ (fn. 7)Â ] The English and Scotch ordinance has been conveyed, by the help of Dacre, to Etall Castle. The King of Scotsâ€™ body is brought to Berwick. No great man of Scotland has returned, except the Chamberlain.ďż˝
Her involvement in the Battle Flodden had exhausted her so much that she worried she might miscarry the child. While she never made it to the battlefield she is said to have traveled as far as Buckingham. Nonetheless, the preparation and everyday rigor of planning the war had taken the toll on her body and unborn child. On the 8th of ďż˝October, prior to Henryâ€™s return toďż˝England, Katherine delivered a premature son. He died shortly after birth. Itâ€™s sad to see such a victory in battle became a defeat in producing an heir for the king. I often wonder how Henry reacted.
I cannot tell you the number of times a queen consort of England was named regent while the king was away and in turn was in charge of the safety of the country and succeeded. The number cannot be high. It seems that Katherineâ€™s upbringing as a Spanish Infanta and daughter of two powerful Catholic monarchs helped her to victory at the Battle of Flodden. I have no doubt that had another queen been named regent during the time that England would have lost many more men and possibly its throne to Scotland.
When was the last time you actually sat and thought about when or how something was created, or wondered where it came from? Recently I was watching a program about the Tudors that depicted them playing cards and I thought, I wonder what the history is behind playing cards?
Playing cards originated in 9th century China during the Tang dynasty.ą During the same time in England, Alfred the Great was the King of Wessex and had become the dominate king in England.
From China, playing cards spread to India and Persia and then to Egypt. In the second half of the 14th century they arrived in Europe.˛ When playing cards arrived in England is not exactly documented, however, Ian Mortimer writes in, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England that playing cards had not yet caught on in England in the 14th century, but soon would.
There is evidence of playing cards in an Act of Parliament during the reign of King Edward IV. Found, was a statute relating to the status of alien merchants and to the protection of the manufacturers and tradesmen in London from foreign competition. This statute included the import of playing cards.ł Edward the IV ruled during the middle to late 15th century.
We often see playing cards depicted in historical fiction dramas like Showtime’s, “The Tudors”. Henry VIII is often seen in this TV series as playing cards with his queens.
Today we know playing cards as a way to pass idle time, whether it be with family or by playing solitaire of your computer.
These are the Cloister Playing Cards – the only known full set of playing cards that exist. The suits are in relation to equipment of the hunt. There are dog collars, tethers, gaming nooses, and hunting horns. In red are the collars and horns (2nd and 4th rows) and in blue the tethers and nooses (1st and 3rd rows).
A closer look at the cards:
ą Needham, Joseph 2004. Science & Civilisation in China’. vol 1, Cambridge University Press, pages 131/2, 328, 334
˛ The World of Playing Cards
ł Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 39, Part 1 page 14