Book Corner: Tudor Roses by Amy Licence

A dynasty is defined by its men: by their personalities, their wars and reigns, their laws and decisions. Their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are often depicted as mere foils, shadowy figures whose value lies in the inheritance they brought, or the children they produced. Yet the Tudor dynasty is full of women who are fascinating in their own right, like Margaret Beaufort, who finally emerged triumphant after years of turmoil; Elizabeth of York and her steadying influence; Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, whose rivalry was played out against the backdrop of the Reformation; and Mary and Elizabeth, England’s first reigning queens. Then there were all the others: Henry VIII’s fascinating sisters who became queens of France and Scotland, and their offspring, the Brandon and Grey women, Lady Margaret Douglas and her granddaughter Arabella Stuart. Many more women danced the Pavane under Henry’s watchful eye or helped adjust Elizabeth’s ruff. These were strong women, wielding remarkable power, whether that was behind the scenes or on the international stage. Their contribution took England from the medieval era into the modern. It is time for a new narrative of the Tudor women: one that prioritises their experiences and their voices.

Tudor Roses: From Margaret Beaufort to Elizabeth I by Amy Licence continues the history started with Red Roses, which told the history of the women of the royal house of Lancaster, from Blanche of Lancaster to Margaret Beaufort and the start of the Tudor dynasty. Tudor Roses: From Margaret Beaufort to Elizabeth I is the fabulous sequel! Amy Licence has put all her considerable knowledge and research into this book to bring you a book on the Tudor period focussed on its incredible women.

Amy Licence brings the women to the fore, telling the stories of the Tudors through the lives and actions of the women who formed such a considerable part of the dynasty. Not only does she retell the lives of these women, but she puts those lives in context, assessing their influence and legacy on one of the most famous English dynasties – and on the European countries that England interacted with.

Amy Licence also draws not only on events of the time, but on the changing world around the dynasty, on the developments in literature, music, the arts and religion to give a rounded picture of the women of 16th century England. This gives the reader a deeper understanding of the rules and restrictions women had to live by at the time. It also demonstrates the areas in which women had liberties and the ability to express their own desires, wants and needs, and how they could assert control over their own lives.

This is Amy Licence at her best!


It is not difficult to visualise the Tudor princesses sitting at their lessons, or roaming the gardens at Eltham. Surviving accounts give an indication of the adult-style clothing in which the children appeared, as the nursery was also a location for the entertainment of dignitaries and foreign visitors, and the children were a powerful, visible indicator of the dynasty’s future. In November 1495, Henry spent £7 on ‘diverse yerdes of silk’ for Henry and Margaret, while baby Mary the following years was clothed in kirtles of black silk and velvet, edged in ermine and mink. The following year as she was beginning to walk, her dresses were made of baby buckram, a fine cotton, not like the stiff, modern version, and she required linen smocks, three pairs of hose, eight pairs of single-soled shoes and four pairs of double. The children were frequent visitors to Windsor, Westminster, Greenwich, Sheen and Baynard’s Castle, or wherever their parents might be, attending important events and festivities, expected to show themselves to best advantage in front of guests. No doubt the girls were also influenced by Margaret Beaufort’s model of piety and were visible attendees at church on red letter days in the Catholic calendar, but they were also lively, energetic participants. One of Margaret’s most notable public appearances as a small child was her fifth birthday in November 1494, on which occasion her younger brother Henry was elevated to the Dukedom of York. A tournament lasting three days was held at Westminster, after which Margaret handed out the prizes, dressed in a velvet and buckram gown trimmed in gold lace with a white, winged cap in the Dutch style. Afterwards, Margaret and her young brother danced to the delight of the court.

At Eltham, Margaret and Mary were shielded from he dynastic struggles that their parents were experiencing in the 1490s. A second pretender, far more serious than the young Lambert Simnel, had emerged in Europe, and was being feted by enemies of the Tudor regime. Claiming to be Richard of Shrewsbury, the younger of the Princes in the Tower, a young Flemish merchant by the name of Perkin Warbeck arrived at the Burgundian court, swiftly winning over Elizabeth’s aunt Margaret, who schooled him in the details and manners of the Yorkist court and encouraged him to distribute coins minted in his name. Warbeck was initially welcomed at the court of Charles VIII of France, until Charles ejected him under terms of the Treaty of Etaples he signed with England in 1492. The pretender returned to Burgundy, where he was invited to attend the funeral of the Holy Roman Emperor and recognised as Richard IV. However, after a failed attempt to invade England, and a brief flirtation with Ireland, Warbeck went north, towards the Scottish king with whom Henry had hoped to ally his eldest daughter.

Amy Licence is an accomplished writer whose prose flows so freely that you almost feel like you are reading a novel. The narrative flows easily, absorbing the reading from the very first pages. As you may have come to expect from Ms Licence, her research is thorough and second-to-none. She delves into every aspect of the lives of the women and brings the whole era to life for the reader, showing how they interracted with the world around them, with the men in their lives – and with each other.

Her insight into the lives of the Tudor women is unparalleled.

It is always a pleasure to read a non-fiction book by Amy Licence and Tudor Roses: From Margaret Beaufort to Elizabeth I is no exception. In fact, it is probably one of Ms Licence’s best. For anyone interested in the Tudor period, this book is a must read. An essential addition to any library. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Tudor Roses: From Margaret Beaufort to Elizabeth I is available from Amazon and Amberley Publishing.

About the author:

Amy Licence is an historian of women’s lives in the medieval and early modern period, from Queens to commoners. Her particular interest lies in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, in gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. She is also interested in Modernism, specifically Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Picasso and Post-Impressionism. She has been a teacher for over twenty years and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Amy has written for The Guardian, The TLS, The New Statesman, BBC History, The English Review, The Huffington Post, The London Magazine and contributes regularly to BBC History Magazine. She has been interviewed regularly for BBC radio, including Woman’s Hour, and has appeared in several TV documentaries.


My Books

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, and Book Depository.

1 family. 8 earls. 300 years of English history!

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword, and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, and Book Depository.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066.  Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, and Book Depository.


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©2022 Sharon Bennett Connolly 

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