I’d been looking forward to this book since it was announced. It examines the last 18 months of Anne Boleyn’s life in detail. Across 5 parts and 21 chapters Anne’s life and circumstances are examined in minute detail to bring the English Tudor court back to life. Anne was trapped by circumstance and her intelligence, and vivacious and flirtatious personality caught the king’s attention and then led to distrust and her downfall. It’s one of the most shocking episodes in British history, but Grueninger brings it back to life in a new way.
Grueninger has gone back to the original sources, and there are some new insights of original letters that have been discussed in previous works, and new opinions based on some recent research. Many of the myths and rumours around Anne’s fall don’t stand up to close scrutiny – the places and timings of the cases of adultery, the fact that her body was but in an arrow chest, and the final letter said to have been written from Anne to the king in the Tower. There are new insights and a close examination of all of the evidence to bring Anne and her horrifying situation to life.
It’s a lovely tribute to Anne Boleyn, and her spirit, vivaciousness, and bravery in facing her death with gumption, leaving her young daughter to grow up without her mother. She knew she had to protect those she was leaving behind, and the ignominy she would inevitably face, asking those who might examine her case to “judge the best”.
I love Grueninger’s writing and how she examines the sources without any prior bias. It’s absolutely fascinating and very well-written. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone fascinated by Tudor history, and those who think they know Anne Boleyn’s story as this offers a completely new perspective. Absolutely wonderful and eye-opening.
Another triumph in the Kindred Spirits series – I adore this series, and I think this may have been the best one yet, but definitely on par with ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London’ which has been up to now my favourite of the series. These books make me laugh so much and I wish that these communities of ghosts living at the likes of the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Windsor Castle were real.
It was hinted at in the last in the series, ‘Kindred Spirits: Ephemera’ that this book would feature that most famous King Henry VIII, and it doesn’t disappoint, as those ghosts who were closest to Henry VIII in life come together – the likes of Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. Richard III again takes centre stage as he struggles with his relationship with Henry VII and the haunting of ghosts he cares for.
The story pushes on, with every chapter adding something to the storyline, and nothing wasted. We see more and more of these characters from history – potential vulnerabilities and how they adjust to the changing modern world, and confront difficult decisions and relationships.
It’s a different way of looking at figures from the past and I really enjoy it. This book seems to bring together the communities at the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey as the previous books haven’t so it’s interesting to see ghosts intermingling in a way we haven’t in the series before. I absolutely adore these books and cannot wait for more ghostly adventures!
Huge thanks to Amberley Publishing for gifting me a copy of this to review.
William Sandys wasn’t a person that I knew much about, to be honest. I’d heard of him mentioned in other Tudor history books I’ve read, but he wasn’t someone I really knew other than to recognise the name and that he was at the English court.
This was certainly an interesting read, though it did seem to get bogged down in details at times and was quite repetitive at other points. There is a slight dearth of surviving information on Sandys, as he wasn’t really massively involved in major events, though he did take part in the likes of the Battle of the Spurs, the suppression of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and the fall of Anne Boleyn. He sounds like a it of a bureaucrat, determined to assist the crown however he could and whatever that meant, without too many scruples, though he was said to be a conservative rather than a reformer.
The world needs more research on figures like Sandys and others who played an important role in history but have been overlooked or underestimated. This book adds to the Tudor canon of the figures we know less about. Hopefully we will see more books like this in the coming years which open our minds to figures we know less about, although no doubt that will depend on the availability of sources and information.
A great book, well written, though feels like it gets a bit bogged down in places. The timeline at the back is helpful to know where Sandys was at various points, what he was doing, and the sources that allow us to know that.
Wrong birth date of Elizabeth I given – said it was 9 September but was actually 7 September.
Said Anne Boleyn miscarried in 1565 when she died in 1536.
Claimed Henry VIII married Jane Seymour the day after Anne Boleyn’s execution, but that was the date of the betrothal not the wedding.
William, Lord Sandys: His Ancestors and the Medieval Vyne, Hampshire
The Young William Sandys
Knight of the Body for Henry VII
High Marshal of the Army
The King’s Chamberlain
Sandys’ Works and Patronage
Descendants of William, the 1st Baron Sandys
Summary and Conclusions
Chronology of William, Lord Sandys’ Life
Sandys’ Manors and Lands c. 1490-1612
Transcription of William Sandys’ Will, December 1540
A fun romp through royal history, looking at some of the most scandalous royals and what they did. There is very much a focus on English history, with just some of the more famous foreign rulers thrown in like Catherine the Great and Vlad the Impaler. The focus is also largely on the modern period, with nearly half of the book covering just the 20th century. There is only one Roman Emperor discussed, when they must have had enough scandals to fill most of the book!
It is a fun read, but with a couple of errors that I spotted including the Pilgrimage of Grace as happening in 1541 when it was 5 years earlier, and one of Anne Boleyn’s ‘lovers’ Mark Smeaton being hanged and quartered when he was actually beheaded. There are also a few grammatical errors where it doesn’t read as well as it could.
A fun short book to dip in and out of but seemed to gloss over some of the scandals of history to focus on the modern royals, which was a little disappointing for me, being a history buff. However, the sections on the modern royals were also very interesting, reading back on things that I heard on and off in the news growing up, but reading about them now as an adult puts a bit of a different spin on things.
A Summary of Monarchs Since 1066
Scandalous Rulers Before the Fifteenth Century
Scandalous Rulers of the Fifteenth to Nineteenth Centuries
Thanks to Pen and Sword for gifting me a copy of this to review.
This is quite a different take on the Tudor period which I really enjoyed. It’s written in really short chapters which makes it easy to read and dip in and out of and return to if you want to refresh your memory on a particular event.
The book covers 45 different events of the Tudor period which are the most grisly events of the period rather than the most common events. These include the poisoning of Bishop Fisher, the blackened heart of Katherine of Aragon, Mary I’s phantom pregnancies, and the kidnap of Mary Queen of Scots, among many others. Particular attention is paid to some of the more gory or unusual aspects of the events described which is quite novel and something that some history books skate over.
The book has a great selection of images, and a comprehensive index. There are two things I will say that stops this being a 5-star read for me, maybe just as a historian myself, there is a lack of original / contemporary primary sources listed in the bibliography though they have been used in the text itself, but that certainly doesn’t detract from the excellent discourse and ease of reading of this book which I thoroughly enjoyed! There is also only mention of Henry VII in the Bosworth chapter but no further mention of him really, even given the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions and the execution of the Earl of Warwick.
Aside from these two things I can’t really fault it! This is a fantastic addition to my Tudor bookcase and one that I will certainly come back to when working on my own writing! It really does cover so many different things that there will be something for everyone whatever your interests are; political, personal, medical, or death. A brilliant gory discourse on my favourite period of history!
I have had a re-organise of my bookshelves this week; there wasn’t enough room on my nonfiction shelves anymore as I have had quite a few books gifted to me from lovely publishers for review!
I organise my books chronologically as far as I can – how do you organise yours?
I start at the top move downwards, as follows:
General monarchy, kings and queens
Wars of the Roses general
Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville
Princes in the Tower
Richard III and Anne Neville
Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
Katherine of Aragon
Anne of Cleves
Lady Jane Grey and her sisters
Mary Queen of Scots
Places, palaces, castles, houses, guidebooks
Obviously this list will expand as my interests and book collection expands, I’m hoping to add books on Jack the Ripper, Regency England, and the Holocaust. I have already read around this subjects, but many borrowed from the library rather than books I own.
I have a long list from publishers still to review so look out for reviews on these in the coming months!
John Ashdown-Hill – ‘Elizabeth Widville: Lady Grey, Edward IV’s Chief Mistress and the ‘Pink Queen’ (Pen and Sword)
John Matusiak – ‘Martyrs of Henry VIII: Repression, Defiance, and Sacrifice’ (The History Press)
Matthew Lewis – ‘Richard III: Loyalty Binds Me’ (Amberley Publishing)
Robert Stedall – ‘Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester’ (Pen and Sword)
Amy Licence – ‘1520: the Field of the Cloth of Gold’ (Amberley Publishing)
Heather Darsie – ‘Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s Beloved Sister’ (Amberley Publishing)
Nathen Amin – ‘Henry VII and the Tudor Pretenders: Simnel, Warbeck, and Warwick’ (Amberley Publishing)
Linda Collins & Siobhan Clarke – ‘King and Collector: Henry VIII and the Art of Kingship’ (The History Press)
Jan-Marie Knights – ‘The Tudor Socialite: A Social Calendar of Tudor Life’ (Amberley Publishing)
Sarah Bryson – ‘La Reine Blanche: Mary Tudor, A Life in Letters’ (Amberley Publishing)
John Jenkins – ‘The King’s Chamberlain: William Sandys of the Vyne, Chamberlain to Henry VIII’ (Amberley Publishing)
Amy Licence – ‘Tudor Roses: From Margaret Beaufort to Elizabeth I’ (Amberley Publishing)
Mickey Mayhew – ‘House of Tudor: A Grisly History’ (Pen and Sword)
Stephen Browning – ‘On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes’ (Pen and Sword)
Tony Morgan – ‘Power, Treason, and Plot in Tudor England: Margaret Clitherow: An Elizabethan Saint’
Thank you to Pen and Sword, Amberley Publishing, and The History Press for sending me complimentary copies of the above, and I promise I will try and get reviews of these up as soon as possible!
Thanks to The History Press for a copy of this book to review.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s a refreshing new look at the Tudor period through the objects that have survived. I’ve read several other books by John Matusiak before, including his biographies on Henry VIII and Thomas Wolsey. This one is my favourite because it is so different.
Objects examined in the book include the silver-gilt boar badge found at Bosworth, Lady Jane Grey’s prayer book, and a lock of Elizabeth I’s hair. These more famous artefacts are examined alongside things like a sun mask, a birthing chair, a pocket pistol, and the world’s oldest football. There are so many different objects and some that you didn’t realise even existed in this period.
There are images of all of the artefacts discussed and a discussion of each object, along with the context in which they would have been used and were discovered. Some are quite recent discoveries, like the bedhead of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and others had been handed down through generations or are in museums. The history of these individual objects is almost as interesting as the contextual history.
The writing is clear and concise, giving plenty of detail without going overboard. I also like how each object has its own section, so no one object is given more attention and information than any other, even the more famous and well-known ones. In a way this book gives more attention to the lesser known and general objects because there are more of them, which is quite nice.
I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone with an interest in Tudor history or of historical objects and the history of them. One that I’ll definitely come back to!
Thanks to Pen and Sword Books for giving me a copy of this to review.
This is certainly something new in Tudor history. There has been a spurt of ‘new’ history books, for instance looking at black Tudors and disability. It’s worth reading about to get a more rounded knowledge of the period and context of it.
This book has chapters on all sorts of things from disability at court including court fools, disability in the common people, effects on fertility, depictions in portraits, etc. I found it a thoroughly interesting read. Some sections I found quite hard going, perhaps the sections I found more technical to read. There are several sections of quite extensive repetition, which is probably due to the fact that there is limited information on disability in Tudor times.
I got a sense part way through that I’d read the same sentences before and looking at other reviews just before I wrote this, and after I finished reading the book, I noticed how many instances of plagiarism had been noted by other readers. I won’t indulge in pointing them out as I didn’t notice them when reading myself, but it seems some of them were quite obvious. Something to bear in mind when reading.
But it offers a lot to history and is well-written and researched, looking not only at the disabilities that might have been suffered and how they were perceived then, but also how perceptions and even naming of disabilities has changed. It’s certainly not perfect, but it offers something new to sink our teeth into and expansion of knowledge is never a bad thing. You can tell that the author has experience personally with disability in the sympathetic way she tackles the subject and in perceptions of those with a disability.
Everyday Life in the Community
Tudor Laws and Disability
Superstition and Disability
Religion, Reformation, and Disability
Almshouses and Hospitals
Physicians, Surgeons, Barber-Surgeons, and Healers
The Health of a King and His Decline into Disability
I have thoroughly enjoyed this whole series from Alison Weir and what a way to end! Although the previous two for me were the weakest (‘Anna of Kleve’ and ‘Katheryn Howard’). This one brought the series back up to the levels of the first three books in the series. Katherine Parr is often just remembered as the sixth wife and the one who survived, but this offers a new insight into her life and the people who she affected and who affected her most.
Katherine Parr has always fascinated me – she was the only one of Henry’s wives to have married twice before her marriage to the King (Katherine of Aragon was married once before) and then once after as well! She is a really intriguing woman who suffered so much through her life and died tragically as well, though at least it was a natural death rather than a beheading!
The book was full of detail and well-paced. I had thought that maybe Weir would rush through Katherine’s first two marriages, but she didn’t, and I think that was actually my favourite part of the book – the bit that I know least about, and certainly is least written about Katherine. The focus tends to be on her royal marriage and her fourth marriage to Thomas Seymour and the controversy with Elizabeth, but it was these early marriages which really shaped her, so it was super interesting to read about those in a fictionalised way.
The ideas of betrayal and religion run throughout as Katherine struggles not to betray her own religious beliefs, or her feelings about Thomas Seymour, to those around her. This was a tumultuous period in English history where religion was very much an open question and Weir handles it sensitively with the views of the time not marred too much by the sensibilities of the present.
This was an excellent book to finish the series off on and this is certainly a series I will come back to again and re-read.
It has been a very difficult year for museums, many of which have remained closed, or have only been able to open for a month or two. I was approached by Royal Museums Greenwich about their new upcoming exhibitions. With my anxiety I don’t feel like I can travel at the moment to attend the exhibitions, but I am hoping to get the chance to visit before they close as they both look excellent!
If you want to attend one of the exhibitions, tickets are on sale now at the links below, open from 17 May 2021.
The first exhibition is called ‘Tudors to Windsors’ on royal portraiture from Henry VII to the present day. The second is called ‘Faces of a Queen’ which will bring together the three surviving Armada portraits for the first time.