Publication of ‘Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue and Treason’!


I’m absolutely delighted to be able to announce that my debut book ‘Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue and Treason’ is available to order in the UK RIGHT NOW.

You can order it direct from Pen and Sword here.

If you have pre-ordered it from somewhere like Amazon, Waterstones, or Foyles, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until the official release date of 30 January. But if you’ve been thinking about buying it, now is the time and Pen and Sword also have 20% off as an introductory offer!

If you’re in the US or anywhere outside the UK I believe the official release is 7 February, so only a couple of weeks to go, though you can get it through Book Depository with free worldwide shipping if you can’t wait the extra week.

I don’t think I’ll quite believe it until I hold a copy of it in my hands, it still feels quite surreal! New business cards arrived today and I’m having a celebration with friends and family in just a week and a half, and a few other things lined up so watch this space!

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been so supportive throughout the whole process; everyone at Pen and Sword, and all of you who read my blog, follow me and comment and social media, and everyone who has already bought my book! You guys are awesome.

But special thanks have to go to my amazing friend and editor, Laura, as well as friends Mark, Ben, and Hattie. And my sister, Matilda. You all know I couldn’t have done it without you.

This has been a lifelong dream for me, though I haven’t liked to admit it to myself, believing it would never actually happen, and now it has. I’m two-thirds of the way through writing book two now, so look out for that, also from Pen and Sword, in July 2024. Ideas for two more books are floating around in my head, including one based around the research I did for my Masters dissertation way back in 2013.

As I write in the dedication of this, my first book, it’s “for everyone out there facing trials that get in the way of your dreams”. Keep persevering. I’m not saying it will definitely happen, I mean I don’t know the future. But. If you work hard and put the effort in, you’re much more likely to get there.

See some early reviews below:

Book Review – ‘Queen Elizabeth I: Life and Legacy of the Virgin Queen’ by Paul Kendall


Thanks to Pen & Sword for a copy of this book to review.

I’ve previously read Paul Kendall’s book ‘Henry VIII in 100 Objects’ which I really enjoyed. Both that one of this goes through 100 different places and objects from the life of each of the monarchs. This book on Elizabeth I covers books, tombs, palaces, statues, paintings, and engravings. Her reign is often seen as a Golden Age, and this book covers everything from her birth and childhood to her imprisonment under her sister, Mary, her accession to the throne, through rebellions and the Spanish Armada, to her death in 1603.

The book is structured chronologically with plenty of images scattered in each of the 100 sections. Each section is only a couple of pages long at most, and each one has at least one image, meaning over 100 images throughout the book. It’s obviously well-researched and many of the photos are author’s own, so the author has obviously travelled to see many of the places and objects described throughout.

For anyone who is already primed on Elizabethan history this may be a little simple in its execution, but there are interesting tit-bits of information scattered throughout anyway that you may not know, related particularly to some of the most obscure objects discussed.

It’s almost like having a guide if you were travelling around to see these things. The story of each of the objects and places goes on past the Tudor era to see how they ended up where they did and in the condition they did. It’s an absolutely fascinating take on Elizabeth’s life and reign through the things that she interacted with, some on a daily basis.

Book Review – ‘Henry VII and the Tudor Pretenders: Simnel, Warbeck, and Warwick’ by Nathen Amin


Thanks to Amberley Publishing for a copy of this book to review.

This is an incredibly detailed and interesting book focused on the reign of Henry VII and the problems he had with pretenders like Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, as well as threats from those with real and legitimate claims like the Princes in the Tower and the Earl of Warwick. It is so detailed I had to go back and re-read sections to make sure I did Amin’s research justice.

The book explores how Simnel and Warbeck each rose to a position where they could make a play for the throne, pretending to be those who had a legitimate claim to the throne. Simnel pretended to be the Earl of Warwick and Warbeck pretended to be Richard, younger of the Princes in the Tower. Both managed to gain significant support from the likes of France, Burgundy, and Ireland, and pose a serious threat to the Tudor throne.

Amin’s writing is clear, and he has obviously spent many years researching this topic as there is plenty of new information and thoughts. He doesn’t explicitly state what his thoughts are on the pretenders but leads you towards making your own conclusions based on the evidence that survives. We will likely never be able to say for sure exactly who the pretenders were, but it is possible new evidence could still come to light, though unlikely I would say.

This is one of the best and most-detailed history books I’ve read recently, and on a topic that doesn’t normally get an entire book to itself. It adds greatly to the existing knowledge, and on an often-overlooked monarch, though Henry VII does seem to be gaining more attention as the years pass. For anyone interested in the Tudor period, this book is definitely for you!

Chapters:

  1. The Year of Three Kings
  2. The Triumphing General
  3. Rebels and Traitors
  4. Insatiable Hatred
  5. The Joiner’s Son
  6. A Mad Dance
  7. The Fortunes of War
  8. The Noble Triumph
  9. Werbecque of Tournai
  10. War of Necessity
  11. My Only Son
  12. The Devilish Enterprise
  13. Shame and Derision
  14. Mortal War
  15. Final Conclusion
  16. Fresh Revolution
  17. A Stranger Born
  18. The Most Savage Harshness
  19. Epilogue – One Rose

‘Elizabethan Rebellions’ now available for preorder!


I am delighted to announce that my debut book, ‘Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue, and Treason’ is now available for preorder. It is also available on NetGalley for those hoping to review it. It’s very exciting and quite nerve-racking now that people can purchase it! I just hope that everyone enjoys reading it when they get their hands on a copy (if you want to, of course!) and that you might learn something you didn’t know before.

‘Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue, and Treason’ will be published by Pen and Sword Books on 30th January 2023 and it comes in at 256 pages with 20 black and white images.

It was so interesting to write and it’s such a thrill to now see it heading out into the world. As you may know if you also follow me on social media, I am now working on my second book about Tudor executions. I’ll put my social media links at the end of this post so head on over and give me a follow on your favourite stream if you want to see updates on how my writing is progressing!

PREORDER LINKS

If you want to preorder my book, it is available on the following sites that I’m aware of – Amazon you should be able to purchase it in your own domain and Book Depository offers free worldwide shipping if you’re outside the UK!

Pen and Swordhttps://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Elizabethan-Rebellions-Conspiracy-Intrigue-and-Treason-Hardback/p/22351

Amazonhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Elizabethan-Rebellions-Conspiracy-Intrigue-Treason/dp/1399081993

Blackwellshttps://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Elizabethan-Rebellions-by-Helene-Harrison/9781399081993

Waterstoneshttps://www.waterstones.com/book/elizabethan-rebellions/helene-harrison/9781399081993

WHSmithhttps://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/elizabethan-rebellions-conspiracy-intrigue-and-treason/helene-harrison/hardback/9781399081993.html

Foyleshttps://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/history-politics/elizabethan-rebellions-conspiracy-intr,helene-harrison-9781399081993

Hivehttps://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Helene-Harrison/Elizabethan-Rebellions–Conspiracy-Intrigue-and-Treason/27619474

Barnes & Noblehttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/elizabethan-rebellions-helene-harrison/1142446644

Book Depository (free worldwide shipping) – https://www.bookdepository.com/Elizabethan-Rebellions-Helene-Harrison/9781399081993

Bookshop.orghttps://uk.bookshop.org/books/elizabethan-rebellions-conspiracy-intrigue-and-treason/9781399081993

NetGalley (for reviewers) – https://www.netgalley.co.uk/catalog/book/272723

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Book Review – ‘Imprisoning Mary Queen of Scots: The Men Who Kept the Stuart Queen’ by Mickey Mayhew


Thanks to Pen and Sword Books for a copy of this to review.

This is a very different take on the Mary Queen of Scots story. Starting really when she escaped Scotland into England in 1568 after being deposed in favour of her son, James, Mary’s nineteen years of captivity in England are told in detail through the people who were responsible for her under the eye of their queen, Elizabeth I.

The book is obviously well-researched with plenty of quotes incorporated into the text, and pop culture references to the likes of the film ‘Mary Queen of Scots’, and by the authors Jean Plaidy and Philippa Gregory. However, many of the contemporary quotes seem to come from secondary sources rather than the originals. This doesn’t detract when reading it, however.

Different chapters cover Mary’s time with different gaolers in different places, and both places and gaolers are described in some detail with how they came to be where they were.

There is an extensive bibliography, though largely of secondary sources, with plenty of information scattered through the book that I didn’t know before, especially about just how much she was moved around so that the places she lived in could be cleaned and freshened out for her return.

One of my bug bears with this book, however, is that there is no bibliography. I like to be able to dip in and out of books if I’m looking for particular information and I find I cannot necessarily do that with this book, despite it being written in chronological order – for instance, looking for the Ridolfi and Throckmorton Plots are within the longest chapter in the book.

Mickey Mayhew’s book offers a lot to research on Mary Queen of Scots and her period of captivity in England, where focus is usually on her marriages, the Casket letters, the disasters of her queenship, and her execution. The focus of her captivity is usually the rebellions against Elizabeth I, but this book examines it in a more domestic light, which I’ve never seen before. It’s fascinating.

Chapters:

  1. Mary’s Path to Imprisonment
  2. Sir Francis Knollys
  3. ‘Keeping Mary’ – the North of England
  4. The Earl of Shrewsbury and Bess of Hardwick
  5. ‘Keeping Mary’ – Coventry
  6. ‘Keeping Mary’ – the Sheffield slog
  7. Ralph Sadler
  8. ‘Killing Mary’ – Chartley, Tixall and Fotheringhay
  9. Life after Mary
  10. Gaolers in Fiction, on Film and TV

“Hardwick Hall; more glass than wall”


Hardwick Hall (photo is author’s own)

I have visited Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire for the first time this week, and wow, what a place. Even though I’ve seen pictures of the hall, they don’t do justice to the sheer amount of glass. In the sixteenth century that must have been incredible to anyone who saw it!

I also hadn’t realised that Bess of Hardwick had died at the grand old age of around 80, though her exact date of birth is unknown c.1527. She was a fascinating woman in her own right, marrying four times, and rising from a minor gentry family to become a countess and a powerful woman. Bess was born at the Old Hall, then a small manor house, close by the current Hall, though she later decided to renovate and then build a new Hardwick, which is what survives today.

Bess’s first husband was Robert Barlow who died around 1544, her second was Sir William Cavendish, her third was William St Loe, and her fourth was George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. When Bess was married to William Cavendish they gained the land including the manor of Chatsworth. It would take decades to build this house.

Bess of Hardwick remodelled Hardwick Old Hall, where she was born, in the 1580s. She had married the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1568. But they were given the duty of guarding Mary Queen of Scots when she arrived in England, and this would ruin their marriage. In summer 1584 Shrewsbury forced Bess out of her home at Chatsworth and this is when she decided to renovate Hardwick. She was barred from many of Shrewsbury’s houses, so retreated to her own home. She had to buy Hardwick when her brother, James, died bankrupt in the Fleet prison.

Bess of Hardwick’s initials ‘ES’ on top of one of the turrets at Hardwick Hall. ‘ES’ stands for ‘Elizabeth Shrewsbury’ (photo is author’s own)

To Hardwick Old Hall Bess added two additional wings. The house was occupied by Bess, her son, William, and his family, and her grand-daughter, Arbella Stuart. Arbella was the granddaughter of Margaret Douglas, who was the granddaughter of Henry VII. As such, she was considered a potential heir to Elizabeth I.

As the renovations to Hardwick Old Hall reached completion Bess of Hardwick began to build the Hardwick Hall we see today, beginning work just as her husband, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, died in November 1590. The turrets at Hardwick have Bess’s initials ‘ES’ for ‘Elizabeth Shrewsbury’ emblazoned in stone atop them, and her arms in stone sit above the entrance. The house is full of beautiful furniture and tapestries which give a sense of the grandeur you would have been met with if you visited at the end of the sixteenth or beginning of the seventeenth centuries.

Bess liked symmetry, as seen at Hardwick with the sheer amount of glass and the turrets. Bess of Hardwick certainly knew the master mason, Robert Smythson, though it is unsure exactly how much input he had in the building of Hardwick Hall. Possibly he provided some ideas or plans while Bess and her team did the rest. This would explain a payment made to him in 1597. Materials for the house were locally sourced, as was the labour. The new Hardwick Hall took around seven years to build with the foundations and cellars being dug in 1590 with the ground floor built in 1591, the family floor the following year, and he second floor in 1593. The roof and turrets were built in 1594. Paving and glazing were completed in 1597 and Bess moved in that year. We know this from her own accounts.

Bess of Hardwick’s records room at Hardwick Hall (photo is author’s own)

There is a room at Hardwick which is a bit of a legend, called the Mary Queen of Scots room. Many people assume that, because Bess of Hardwick and her husband were the gaolers of Mary Queen of Scots that she must have been in residence here, but Hardwick Hall wasn’t even started until after Mary’s execution in 1587, so she cannot ever have been in residence. The guidebook to Hardwick Hall suggests that the Mary Queen of Scots Chamber was furnished to feed the myth that she was there. Now Mary’s arms are over the door, though this would have just been a chamber within the bedchamber in Bess of Hardwick’s day.

The great hall at Hardwick (photo is author’s own)

For those who are Harry Potter fans, as I am, Hardwick Hall was used as the basis for Malfoy Manor in the films. They only filmed using the outside of the house, but the inside was used as inspiration for the sets created for the actors to film on.

If you want to visit Hardwick Hall, it is a National Trust property, though the Old Hall is looked after by English Heritage.

If you want to visit, check the National Trust website for up-to-date information, though it is open daily, depending on conservation work happening. It is free if you are a National Trust member, otherwise an adult ticket is priced at £16 and a child at £8 though there are also family and group booking options.

References

Hardwick on the National Trust Website – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardwick-hall

Hardwick Hall Guidebook

Book Review – ‘On the Trail of Jack the Ripper’ by Richard Charles Cobb


I’ve had a fascination with the Jack the Ripper mystery for years. Well, unsolved mysteries generally which started with the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, and the death of Amy Robsart. But the Jack the Ripper mystery is a lot gorier and more disturbing.

This book discusses the five canonical victims in detail, especially the locations connected with each murder and how they relate to London as it is now. There are lots of helpful maps plotting London as it was in 1888 over the street layout today. The sad thing is that many of the streets and locations have now been lost, many in the last decade or two with building works. I went on a Jack the Ripper tour in Whitechapel last year with a friend and it’s amazing how little actually remains, so those locations that do remain are more significant in a way.

Richard Charles Cobb discusses each of the canonical murders, but also discusses the other Whitechapel murders not always considered to be his work (there were 11 in total in the files). It was really interesting to read some of the newspaper articles, the alleged writing of the Ripper, and police reports and memorandum – words spoken or written at the time. Cobb doesn’t really go into suspects, so I think that might be what I’ll look for in my next book on the Jack the Ripper mystery. I want to know more.

Be aware if you buy this book that there are images of the dead women; including the wounds inflicted on the last canonical victim, which are just horrifying. Some authors I know choose not to show the images in their books or put them in a spread in the middle so you can just jump past them, but these images are set into the text so just a trigger warning, though I imagine if you’re reading a book on Jack the Ripper you might be aware of the images!

Book Review – ‘The Peasants Revolting Lives’ by Terry Deary


I was gifted Terry Deary’s previous book ‘The Peasants’ Revolting Crimes’ and I so enjoyed it that I knew I get to get this one when it came out and I wasn’t disappointed! I’ve always enjoyed Terry Deary’s style of writing, right from when I was little reading the Horrible Histories. He makes you feel engaged and want to read on.

What I like about this book, and the previous one, is that it is scattered with quotes, both contemporary and modern, related to what he’s discussing in any given chapter. This could feel disjointed, but Deary makes it work. It covers so many areas including education, warfare, sickness, work, entertainment, and courtship. You can really begin to get a sense of what things would have been like and how, when people say they would rather live in a past century, they haven’t really thought about what it would be like.

His focus on the peasants offers a new insight into the history we think we know – that of monarchs, politicians, and the nobility. We can begin to see what life would have been like for the bulk of the population, rather than focusing on a small percentage of the elite. It’s so well-written, but there was a small error I noticed when it was said that James II was the son of Charles II, rather than his brother! Overall, you could tell it was incredibly well-researched and that Deary was really engaged with his subject.

It’s thought-provoking in the sense that it’s a section of the population often overlooked and seeing how things didn’t really improve much through the centuries, just being trodden down in different circumstances, was quite an eye-opener. I would really recommend this, to find out more about a section of society which we don’t really focus on.

Chapters:

  1. Work
  2. Entertainment
  3. Courtship
  4. Sickness
  5. Housing
  6. Religion
  7. Food
  8. Sport
  9. Warfare
  10. Education

Elizabeth II: A Legacy and the Value of Monarchy


HM Queen Elizabeth II from royal.uk

Like many others across Great Britain, the Commonwealth, and the world, I was glued to my television after the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was announced on Thursday 8th September 2022. An earlier statement made by Buckingham Palace said that “Following further evaluation this morning, The Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision. The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral”.

Just hours later it was confirmed that Her Majesty had died aged 96 and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, had become King Charles III. A statement by Charles III on the death of his mother read as follows:

The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty the Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family. We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world. During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by the knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was so widely held.

When it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II had died, I was in tears. I didn’t expect to feel it so strongly, but I really did, and I’ve since watched Charles III’s first televised address, the Accession Council and Proclamation, and the Queen’s coffin leaving Balmoral. All of these made me cry, just in thoughts of how much the Queen has done for the country and the commonwealth, and the dedicated service of both her and the new King.

It has also been lovely to see the new Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine, formerly known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, doing a walkabout in Windsor alongside Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Perhaps the reconciliation of William and Harry will be something good to come from this, although of course we don’t know exactly what happened between them and cannot presume anything.

The legacy of Elizabeth I is one of duty, dedication, and love. She loved her country, and was a loving and devoted mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother from all accounts. Prince William has said in his statement about his grandmother’s death that:

I thank her for the kindness she showed my family and me. And I thank her on behalf of my generation for providing an example of service and dignity in public life that was from a different age, but always relevant to us all. My grandmother famously said that grief was the price we pay for love. All of the sadness we will feel in the coming weeks will be testament to the love we felt for our extraordinary Queen. I will honour her memory by supporting my father, The King, in every way I can.

If you want to leave a condolence or a memory of the Queen for the Royal Family you can do so here and click ‘Book of Condolence’ on the right-hand side:

https://www.royal.uk/

The value of the monarchy is undiminished even after so many years. I think this is demonstrated by the huge outpouring of grief and memories that have come out since Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday. People have been remembering her kindness, love, duty, and devotion across her 70-year reign. The death of the Queen has brought people together in a way only seen over these state occasions like the Platinum Jubilee back in June 2022, or the wedding of William and Catherine in April 2011.

The value of this can’t be underestimated, even for those who don’t believe we should still have a monarchy. There are no other events that bring people across the UK and Commonwealth together quite as much.

Of course, there are always those who will be against the monarchy and cannot see its value, but I don’t see that. I see far more value in having the monarchy than in it not being there. Without it, there wouldn’t be the constancy of a figurehead of the country even when the prime minister keeps changing. Queen Elizabeth I was a constant through her fifteen prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss. Elizabeth II’s funeral will be the first state funeral since that of Winston Churchill in 1965.

I for one believe in the importance of coming together as a country to mourn our Queen who has devoted her life to her country, although there have been ups and downs, the monarchy has weathered the storms, and come out stronger for it. I look forward to seeing where Charles III, followed by Prince William and then his son, Prince George, will take the monarchy, adapting to the modern world while keeping the traditions that date back hundreds of years.

Statements taken from Instagram @theroyalfamily and @princeandprincessofwales

Image of HM Queen Elizabeth II from https://www.royal.uk/announcement-death-queen

Book Review – ‘Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer’ by Tony Riches


Thanks to Tony Riches and Preseli Press for a copy of this book to review.

I enjoyed this book about a man I didn’t really know a lot about. I knew that he’d travelled to the New World, written ‘A History of the World’ and been imprisoned in the Tower of London twice, once for marrying one of the queen’s ladies. But those are the popular things, so it was intriguing to read his story in a fictional sense, and get a sense of the man, though obviously fiction has to be taken with a pinch of salt to allow for some historical licence.

The book is obviously well-researched and doesn’t fall into some of the myths and legends surrounding Raleigh, like the fact that he laid his cloak over a puddle, so Elizabeth I didn’t get her feet wet. I kept waiting for that to come up and it didn’t, which demonstrated to me that Riches was taking his subject and research seriously.

The story mixes time at court with Elizabeth I, Francis Walsingham, Robert Cecil, and Robert Devereux Earl of Essex, with a life of travelling to the New World and the Azores, and then the comfortable home life with his wife and children. The book, being part of the Elizabethan trilogy, only really takes us up to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, so doesn’t cover Raleigh’s second imprisonment in the Tower writing ‘The History of the World’, or his *spoiler* execution. It would have been interesting to see how Riches tackled this, but maybe for another time as he obviously can’t include everything, or the book would be a mile long!

The sense I got was that Riches wanted to portray some of the lesser-known aspects of Raleigh’s life, and how each decision he made impacted others. For example, his adventuring always seemed to be to the detriment of his family after his marriage. He was drawn to the court and the queen but at the same time wanted to keep away from the intriguing after his first spell in the Tower. Raleigh seems to have been a man who wanted so many things at once, but couldn’t seem to grasp them all.

I haven’t read any complete trilogies by Tony Riches at this point, just odd books, but I have really enjoyed the ones I’ve read and look forward to investing in the others in the future.