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!

Excerpt:

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, Bookshop.org 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,  AmazonBookshop.org 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, Bookshop.org 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, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

*

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

©2022 Sharon Bennett Connolly 

Book Corner: The King’s Pearl by Melita Thomas

Mary Tudor has always been known as ‘Bloody Mary’, the name given to her by later Protestant chroniclers who vilified her for attempting to re-impose Roman Catholicism in England. Although a more nuanced picture of the first queen regnant has since emerged, she is still stereotyped, depicted as a tragic and lonely figure, personally and politically isolated after the annulment of her parents’ marriage and rescued from obscurity only through the good offices of Katherine Parr.

Although Henry doted on Mary as a child and called her his ‘pearl of the world’, her determination to side with her mother over the annulment both hurt him as a father and damaged perceptions of him as a monarch commanding unhesitating obedience. However, once Mary had finally been pressured into compliance, Henry reverted to being a loving father and Mary played an important role in court life.

As Melita Thomas points out, Mary was a gambler – and not just with cards. Later, she would risk all, including her life, to gain the throne. As a young girl of just seventeen she made the first throw of the dice, defiantly maintaining her claim to be Henry’s legitimate daughter against the determined attempts of Anne Boleyn and the king to break her spirit.

Following the 500th anniversary of Mary’s birth, The King’s Pearl re-examines Mary’s life during the reign of Henry VIII and her complex, dramatic relationship with her father.

 

The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and his Daughter Mary by Melita Thomas is an in-depth look into the life of Mary I, in her formative years. It tells the story of England’s first queen regnant, during the life and reign of her father, Henry VIII.

This is a wonderful book, giving an insight into the years of Mary’s life which are rarely considered, when she went from being a pampered princess of two adoring parents to an adolescent declared a bastard by her own father. The author paints the picture of a young woman who had gone through more trials and emotions imposed by her father than any daughter should have to bear. The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and his Daughter Mary evokes sympathy and understanding for the extremes of life experiences that Mary I had to endure, once her parents’ marriage had broken down. From being denied the company of her mother, the attention of her father to being bullied and belittled, in fear of imprisonment, and worse.

220px-Mary_Tudor_by_Horenbout
Mary at the time of her engagement to Charles V. She is wearing a rectangular brooch inscribed with “The Emperour”

On St George’s Day 1527, the French ambassadors went to see Mary at Greenwich. After dinner, Henry led them into a hall in which Mary, Katharine and the French queen were present, with a large comapny of ladies and gentlemen. The proud father told the ambassadors to speak to his daughter in Latin, French and Italian, and she was able to respond in all three languages. She also wrote in French for them, before performing on the spinet. The ambassadors agreed the young lady was very accomplished for her age, which was eleven years and two months. Contrary to the previous description of her as tall, Turenne thought although she was very pretty, she was so ‘thin, spare, and small’, that she could not possibly be married for another three years. From the opposing descriptions of her, we can perhaps infer that none of them is terribly accurate – those who wanted her to be considered ready for marriage described her as tall and robust, while those who wished to delay matters spoke of her as small.

Every aspect of Mary’s early life is examined in detail, from her pampered childhood, surrounded by courtiers and loving parents, to the loneliness of an out-of-favour, illegitimate daughter. Her various marriage prospects are a constant theme throughout the book, demonstrating how Mary was used as a bargaining chip in Henry VIII’s constant diplomatic wranglings between Francis I of France and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

Melita Thomas’ research is impeccable, her arguments and theories are backed up by primary sources, including memoirs, letters and treaties. The focus is entirely on Mary, her relationships with her family and courtiers and the way her father’s policies and marriages affected her life. It examines every aspect of Mary’s life in impeccable detail; her education, court life, her relationships, health and daily routine. It is a sad tale, of a father who demanded absolute obedience, and never  considered the consequences of his actions on the mental well-being of his children.

Well-written and beautifully presented, The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and his Daughter Mary, is a perfect  and essential addition to any Tudor library.

*

About the author

Melita Thomas is a co-founder and editor of Tudor Times, a website devoted to Tudor and Stewart history. Her articles have appeared in BBC History Extra an Britain magazine. The King’s Pearl is available from Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK. and will be available from Amazon US from 1st June 2018.

My Book:

Heroines of the Medieval World,  is now available in hardback in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK. 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. It can also be ordered worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

*

©2018 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: Queen of Martyrs, the Story of Mary I by Samantha Wilcoxson

‘God save the Queen! God save our good Queen Mary!’

When these words rang out over England, Mary Tudor thought her troubles were over. She could put her painful past – the loss of her mother and mistreatment at the hands of her father – behind her.

With her accession to the throne, Mary set out to restore Catholicism in England and find the love of a husband that she had long desired. But the tragedies in Mary’s life were far from over. How did a gentle, pious woman become known as ‘Bloody Mary’?

Queen of Martyrs, The Story of Mary I is the final book in Samantha Wilcoxson’s Plantagenet Embers series. It tells the story, in the third person, from the point of view of Mary I. Mary was the eldest daughter of King Henry I and England’s first ever queen regnant. Although part of a series, the book also works perfectly well as a standalone.

Samantha Wilcoxson has a unique writing style which makes her stand out from other Tudor storytellers. She gets into the mind of her main character and writes Mary’s story as if she’s seeing it through the queen’s own eyes. If Mary did not see something happen, then the reader does not know about it until the queen is informed. This distinctive writing style makes the book a personal journey, both for the subject and the reader.

Mary I

Queen of Martyrs, The Story of Mary I tells the story of Mary I, from the time  of Henry VIII’s marriage to Katherine Parr, to her own death.Telling the story through Mary’s own eyes, we follow her personal and  public relationships, through her brother’s reign and the usurpation of Lady Jane Grey until she is sitting on the throne herself.

The novel demonstrates the human side of Mary I, her fears, insecurities and compassion, and her innate need to be loved; by her sister, her husband and her people. It shows her as a child of the Reformation, just as much as Elizabeth I, but on the opposing side. She is a queen struggling to do the right thing by her conscience and her people.

This compassionate portrayal helps to explain how the descent into the burning of protestants was not a plan, but a consequence of cumulative events and Mary’s own fear of displeasing God. Mary cuts a sad and lonely figure, desperate for love and constantly disappointed; by her father, her sister and, ultimately her husband.

With no children of her own, Mary doted upon Edward and Elizabeth in a way their father never would. She made her way now through the small, crowded room to her father’s other bastardized princess.

Elizabeth performed a perfect curtsy for her sister before letting her guard drop and offering a smile.

“I pray you are well, sister.” Elizabeth said with a sincerity of one unaware of the former bad feelings one has had toward them.

“My thanks to you and to God for seeing that I am indeed restored to health and am able to see a good friend and my dear father united in marriage.” As she said it, Mary was surprised to find that she meant it.

“I wish them great happiness,” Elizabeth agreed without emotion.

“You will find Katryn to be a loving mother, and she may be a calming presence for our father,” Mary encouraged her.

“Undoubtedly, you shall be proven correct.”

Sometimes Elizabeth’s habit of saying only what was expected could annoy, but Mary knew that she was simply doing her best to play her part to perfection. It was an effect of the quick succession of stepmothers and the gruesome connection between marriage and death that the young girl had witnessed.

What I love about this book is that it is Mary’s story. Elizabeth is a peripheral figure, making few appearances and always in her sister’s shadow. Philip of Spain is an unsympathetic character, desperate to get away from a marriage that he doesn’t want. The only character who is symbiotic with Mary is her cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole, she sees him as an equal, in faith and outlook and he’s the only one she seems comfortable with.

Brilliantly researched, this is a sympathetic portrayal of a queen, known in many history books as Bloody Mary, who is often vilified and criticised for the burning of Protestants. Samantha Wilcoxson doesn’t just go with the flow, but manages to examine the queen’s life, loves and personal tragedies. In doing so, she shows us why the name of Bloody Mary is too simplistic for this complex woman who went through so much adversity before she ascended the throne.

Queen of Martyrs, The Story of Mary I is a wonderful, compassionate story of a frequently misunderstood woman. Samantha Wilcoxson’s writing style makes this an intimate portrayal of the Tudor queen, giving the reader a deep, personal relationship with the book and its subject, the queen’s story staying with them long after the last page has been turned.

*

Picture of Mary courtesy of Wikipedia.

*

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.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly