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 

Book Corner: In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII by Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger

51C52QElN8L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_This book provides a fresh perspective on the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives by embarking on a journey through the manors, castles and palaces in which their lives were played out.

Each location is described in a fascinating narrative that unearths the queens’ lives in documents and artefacts, as well as providing practical visitor information based on the authors’ first-hand knowledge of each site. Accompanied by an extensive range of images including timelines, maps, photographs and sketches, this book brings us closer than ever to the women behind the legends, providing a personal and illuminating journey in the footsteps of the six wives of Henry VIII.

In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger, is an absolute treasure trove of pictures and information of the many historic locations associated with Henry VIII’s 6 wives. The book is divided into 7 easy-to-follow sections; the 1st covers the principal Royal residences of the period and the 6 subsequent portions are each dedicated to one of the 6 wives, in chronological order.

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St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury

The book examines each of Henry’s queens in turn, looking at the locations associated with them, not only when they were queen, but also from their childhood and early life. In each section, we are treated to the queen’s story, her triumphs and failures, told through the palaces in which she experienced them.

In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII takes you on a visit of each location, whether it’s a palace or manor house, the authors give vivid tours, telling you what to look out for, what is still extant – and what is lost to history. In one location, they guide you to a housing estate and point out the walls which once made up the exterior of a Henry VIII’s now-lost palace. You are also provided with a practical guide to the locations covered, giving you visitor information, parking suggestions, details on refreshments and facilities.

Windsor Castle

With Katherine of Aragon, we visit the magnificent palaces of Spain, while Anne Boleyn takes us from Burgundy to the Loire Valley. Jane Seymour allows us to investigate the renowned Wolf Hall and Anne of Cleves gives us a fascinating glimpse into Germany’s wonderful castles. Jane Seymour The tragic story of Katherine Howard allows us to join Henry’s great progress of 1541,  through Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, before the tragic last months of imprisonment at Syon House. Which finally brings us to Katherine Parr, investigating the locations associated with her first 2 marriages, her life with Henry and then her final years with Thomas Seymour.To walk the grounds and corridors of Hampton Court Palace is to walk in the footsteps of all the Tudor kings and queens. Within the Tudor palace’s russet-coloured walls, the present fades into the brickwork and the past emerges to greet us. Although mush of the Tudor palace has, over the years, been modified or demolished and replaced with William III’s and Mary II’s baroque palace, the buildings that survive propel us back through the years to a time when Hampton Court was one of Henry VIII’s most beloved palaces, at the centre of court life and politics.

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Hever Castle, Kent

If nothing else, it is worth reading In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII for the research the Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger have conducted into the Anne of Cleves panels. These wonderful wood carvings are discussed and investigated in detail; their fascinating story told for the first time in its entirety. It is not hard to imagine the feelings of curiosity and, sometimes,  disappointment the authors must have felt as they tried to uncover the provenance of these panels, and their associations with Henry VIII’s 4th wife. Their eventual success and discoveries are a testament to the author’s persistence and tenacity.

This book is amply supported by quotes from primary sources, describing the locations as they were at the time the queens lived. The authors have a wonderful habit of discussing the difficulties involved in locating and identifying some of the less famous sites, making you feel part of their investigations.

The Bishop’s Palace, Lincoln

An abundance of photographs and illustrations are included in the book. These include colourful photos of the sites as they are now, black and white floor plans from the Tudor period and artwork painted through the ages.

Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger have created a wonderful book, which is a combination of history book and travel guide. They have worked so well together it is impossible to see the join; they speak with one voice in this stunning collaboration. The book is produced in a way to make it easy to dip in and out of, making it possible to read only about the locations you are currently touring, or to read from beginning to end in a couple of sittings. But be careful, in just looking up one specific location you may find that you lose an entire hour without noticing.

The only criticism I would have is that there are no footnotes to clarify the source of quotations, which makes it harder to use as a research tool, but not impossible. This fault is partly offset, moreover, by an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and in no way detracts from the enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Remarkably, the authors give equal empathy to each of Henry’s wives. It is impossible to discern a bias for Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn (a remarkable achievement). Each property is subject to the same attention to detail, whether it was a frequently occupied palace, or a manor house visited for just a few days while on progress.

Gainsborough Old Hall, Lincolnshire

In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII is beautifully written and thoroughly engaging. You can practically hear, see and smell the Tudors. The book is a detailed, enjoyable and enlightening read, no matter whether you are intending to travel to the palaces, or visiting them through the book, you are in for a real treat. The authors have an incredible ability to invoke the past and recreate the sumptuous, lavish lives of England’s most fascinating queen consorts. It will be a valued addition to anyone’s Tudor library.


My book, Heroines of the Medieval World,  is now available in hardback in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It is also available on Kindle in both the UK and USA and will be available in Hardback from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.

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Photographs ©Sharon Bennett Connolly 2016