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.
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!
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!
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.
Mary’s Path to Imprisonment
Sir Francis Knollys
‘Keeping Mary’ – the North of England
The Earl of Shrewsbury and Bess of Hardwick
‘Keeping Mary’ – Coventry
‘Keeping Mary’ – the Sheffield slog
‘Killing Mary’ – Chartley, Tixall and Fotheringhay
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you to The History Press for a copy of this book to review.
This book is the first one I’ve read of this type, looking at the Elizabethan age through portraiture, including the more famous Coronation, Rainbow, and Armada portraits, and the lesser-known Pelican and miniature portraits. Also includes portraits of people of the Elizabethan age like Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, and Robert Dudley.
It is divided into digestible sections covering different parts of Elizabeth’s life and reign, in largely chronological order, though with dives in and out of the lives of Elizabeth’s courtiers and favourites. There are lots of implications raised about the portraits, and what little things you might overlook could mean, whether it’s a gift from a courtier trying to curry favour through jewels, or the symbolism of a flower, hourglass, or animal that appears.
It’s not a biography of Elizabeth I but an art history, looking at the life and reign of Elizabeth through the portraiture. It clearly links the portraits to different parts of her life and reign, giving the context of how the portraits link to different periods of her life, and how the imagery changes over her life.
A must-have for any fans or academics of the Elizabethan era because it looks at the age from a new perspective and can offer plenty of insights into self-fashioning, image, and power. It was utterly fascinating and so well-researched.
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!
I’ve been so busy recently it’s taken me a while to get round to putting this up on my blog – back in November when I was in London, as well as going to the Tower of London, Natural History Museum, and on a Jack the Ripper walking tour I, of course, had to find time to visit the British Library to see their exhibition on Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. This was just perfect timing, given that I was writing my first book on Elizabethan Rebellions which Mary was a huge part of.
There was so much to see and take in during the exhibition: portraits, books, letters, papal bulls, and jewellery. It was a real insight into the minds of these women and how they were trying to negotiate the murky political waters of the sixteenth century. Here I’m going to talk about just a couple of things in the exhibition which made a huge impact on me.
The first is the letter from the Privy Council agreeing to the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. The original warrant long ago went missing, so this is the closest thing that we have. To see the signatures of William Cecil, Henry Carey Lord Hunsdon, Francis Knollys, and Charles Howard demonstrates just how willing these men were to go over and above their Queen and threaten the very idea of divine right in order to safeguard Elizabeth I’s throne. Mary was just too dangerous to be allowed to live and Elizabeth wouldn’t be safe while she did.
The second was the Babington ‘gallows’ letter which Mary Queen of Scots sent to Anthony Babington in 1586 during the Babington Plot and which led directly to her own execution the following year. The original was written in code and then burnt by Babington once he’d read it. This is a copy made by Walsingham’s codebreaker, Thomas Phelippes. When Phelippes realised that the letter incriminated Mary Queen of Scots in treason he drew a gallows on his copy before sending it onto Walsingham as evidence, hence the name ‘gallows letter’.
The final two things I’m going to talk about, I’m going to do together as they are related to one of my favourite Tudor people – Anne Boleyn. The exhibition included the written announcement of the birth of Elizabeth I in 1533 which was amazing to see, and the famous Chequers ring, which has portraits of Elizabeth I and, allegedly, Anne Boleyn, though this has never been conclusively proven. It seems likely, however, as Elizabeth wore it and never took it off until her death. It’s a stunning piece, smaller than I had imagined but absolutely beautiful. It links the two women together and helps us to consider what Elizabeth might have thought about her mother, who had been executed by her father when she was just 2 years old.
If you want to catch the exhibition before it closes, it is on at the British Library for another week, until 20th February 2022, or you can do a digital tour online.
I think that this biography of Mary Queen of Scots is really detailed and interesting, but it is quite difficult to read in places. It doesn’t seem to flow, and you do need to concentrate in order to take it all in and digest the sheer volume of information.
My previous experience with Mary Queen of Scots was in her relationship with Elizabeth I of England and her struggle for release in England and her execution. It was interesting to read about Mary’s earlier life in France, and her marriage to Darnley. It was a scandalous and intriguing life and well worth such a long biography.
It feels dry but it was interesting to see Mary from the Scottish point of view, where I’m so used to reading about Mary from the perspective of Elizabeth I. Mary was a Queen effectively from birth and juxtaposed against Elizabeth who never really expected to become Queen, they have two very different lives and perspectives on queenship.
Power struggles are central to Mary’s life, power in France with Catherine de Medici, with her husbands – Francis II, Darnley, and Bothwell – and trying to get power in England. The struggle with Elizabeth and succession to the English throne. These power struggles also led to some of Mary’s stupidest mistakes like marrying Bothwell and getting involved in rebellions in England to overthrow Elizabeth.
It was obviously very well-researched and must have taken years to collect all the research and write. Fraser has put together almost an encyclopaedia about Mary Queen of Scots, her relationships, and the events of her life. There are very detailed endnotes and an extensive bibliography, as well as a great index which makes it easy to find the sections that you are looking for, especially about particular people.
A book for the serious history Stuart fan and not for one hoping for a light read about an almost mythical woman.