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!
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.
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 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.
Thank you to Pen and Sword for gifting me a copy of this book for review.
I’m not very knowledgeable about Mary Queen of Scots’ early life in France and Scotland. I know more about the period after she fled to England in 1568. I hoped that this would fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge.
William Maitland isn’t a person I had ever heard of before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect though “Politician, Reformer, and Conspirator” gave me some suggestions. He was involved in the early plotting of Mary Queen of Scots during the Darnley period after her return from France to rule Scotland. He is certainly an interesting figure, though Mary Queen of Scots is far more so. I know that we can learn a lot from the figures on the edges of a famous person’s life, but Maitland didn’t seem to really interest me.
I found the book quite complex and difficult to read in places. This was perhaps because I didn’t know much about the period, or that I didn’t find Maitland a very interesting person. I felt that the dates were given so you could tell how much research had gone into it, but I had to keep flicking backwards to check which year we were in. This is one of my pet peeves in history books – assuming that 4 or 5 pages later you can still remember which year you’re in! This is particularly annoying if you’re using the index to look for references to a particular person or event.
The book is divided down into easily digestible chunks in chronological order, so if you are looking for a particular event it is fairly easy to find it. Maitland comes across as a shadowy figure, never really at the heart of things but with plenty of opinions and involvement on the periphery of events surrounding Mary Queen of Scots. Some of the reference notations were a little sparse for my liking, constantly having to cross-check with the full bibliography and list of abbreviations to find sources which was annoying.
I think this is a book I’ll have to come back to once I’ve read some more of the background to Scotland in this period as I did feel a little out of my depth, but I’ll hope to understand and discover more when I reread it!
Maitland established his standing under Marie of Guise
The Lords of the Congregation challenge French authority
The return of the widowed Mary Queen of Scots
Diplomatic efforts to establish Mary as Elizabeth’s heir
Lord James (soon to be Earl of Moray) and Maitland establish authority
This was a very intriguing read largely regarding the secret network of spies and informants built up around Elizabeth I, with William Cecil, Baron Burghley, Sir Francis Walsingham, and Sir Robert Cecil at its heart. It explores in detail the Throckmorton Plot of 1583 and the Babington Plot of 1586 where the use of spies and ciphers really came into their own.
It was well-written and clearly a lot of research had been done, much of which I hadn’t read about before. However, I felt that in places it also seemed overly complicated, and I couldn’t wrap my head around some of it until I’d read it at least three times. I also had to keep going back to check on the people involved in various plots. There was a lot of jumping about from person to person which I think is sometimes where I got a bit lost, and the writing then lost some of its cohesiveness.
There were detailed endnotes and a comprehensive bibliography, easy to track down the research used. The book plate section in the centre I also felt was well-chosen and linked to what was written about in the text. It was nice to also have some images spread throughout the text when they were particularly appropriate, it made a nice change actually.
There was an interesting introduction of ‘what if’ Elizabeth I had been assassinated after the spy network failed and how this could have influenced English and European history. It illustrated Alford’s point of just how important the Tudor spy network was in keeping monarch and country safe and prosperous.
This was a very helpful book to read for my own writing on Elizabethan Rebellions, but I did have to make a lot of notes and then go back through them to make sure I understood it. Not an easy read, but a very informative one, nonetheless.
I really enjoyed reading this book. Reading it as part of my research for my own book puts a different perspective on it, I’m realising. I focus more on the sections that I myself am writing about rather than the overall work. But Williams writes really clearly and concisely and it’s easy to get pulled into the narrative she’s telling. There are plenty of primary sources discussed throughout, which gives an insider view on what people were thinking and feeling at the time.
The title perhaps is a bit misleading as it suggests that Mary Queen of Scots’s downfall was due entirely to Elizabeth, but that simply wasn’t the case. There were a lot of circumstances that combined to cause Mary’s downfall and execution, not least her own desperation and stupidity. The book does discuss Mary’s mistakes and how she created her own mess.
However, the book as a whole was very cohesive and explored the deep and complicated relationship between the two female monarchs, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, which lasted across decades although the two never met in person. It is an intriguing and at times convoluted relationship which does require a lot of explanation at points, especially regarding the rebellions which surrounded Mary and impacted Elizabeth greatly. This does get confusing at points, and I did have to go back reread to make sure I understood what was going on.
Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots come across as women in their own right, not just as queens, who had their own wants, hopes, dreams, thoughts, and feelings. Sometimes historical biographies can treat their subjects as objects rather than living people (or dead people now, but who were living and real, to be more precise). Kate Williams didn’t fall into that trap with her retelling of the relationship between the two.
The book is thoroughly well-researched and cited, and I must thank Kate for her excellent research which has pointed me to several other sources which I can use myself. One of the best and most interesting books about the tumultuous relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots you’ll ever read.
This was a really interesting book. It’s the first book I’ve read with Francis Walsingham at the centre, though I do also have the biography of Francis Walsingham by Robert Hutchinson. If you’re interested in the secret life of Elizabethan England and how the fairly new idea of a spy network came into being and developed, then this is the book for you.
This book is also very good at discussing Walsingham’s involvement in the downfall and execution of Mary Queen of Scots. There is a huge variety of both primary and secondary sources used, given full credit in the notes and bibliography, which means that it is fairly easy to track the sources down if you want to investigate further. The one thing that I will say is that the primary sources themselves could be discussed more within the text, as I find it useful to see the wider context of the sources and the events they describe.
The index is also quite comprehensive so if you’re looking for something in particular within the book it’s simple to look and find it. There is a good selection of images in a book plate at the centre, with portraits, sketches, maps, paintings, places, and artefacts. These are all clearly captioned as to what they are, but the sources of the images could do with more information otherwise it’s difficult to research them further or verify their antecedents.
It’s the first real book I’ve read in researching my own book, and the section on the Babington plot in particular is fantastic, though I could have done with more detail about the Ridolfi and Throckmorton plots as they aren’t as well described, though perhaps that’s due to lack of sources and information. I’m not sure. The Spanish Armada from an intelligence point of view is also discussed in great detail, which was very interesting, not something that you usually read about the Armada.
This book was very detailed and incredibly interesting. I want to know more about Walsingham now. I didn’t know about his ongoing illness or about his origins. You only really tend to find out about his relationship with Elizabeth and Walsingham and how he saved England in most books about Elizabethan England, so this was really fascinating for me to read.
Thank you to the author for sending me a proof of this book.
This is more of a thesis than a full-length book on the life and reign of Mary I. There are three main areas discussed – Mary’s early life and rise to the throne, her Spanish marriage to Philip II, and the French Wars during which England lost Calais.
The writing is strong, getting straight to the point the writer is trying to make. Many of the sentences I find quite long, and it could have benefitted perhaps from a more concise approach to sentence structure. Each chapter starts with a clear outline of what will be discussed, making it easy to follow. Some books it is sometimes difficult to figure out exactly what each chapter will be about, but not here.
The footnotes are well-done in the accepted academic style, but it feels like the same sources are used on repeat, lacking the variety of some other texts, in both primary and secondary sources. However, the sources used seem diverse, especially secondary sources, but could have benefitted from more exploration of primary sources. There are a few images used, but these could have benefitted from more involvement in the text, though the captions detail exactly what the image is and where it’s come from.
Nevertheless, an interesting read, especially around the French Wars, which I didn’t know as much about as the other sections. For anyone interested in Mary I, this is worth a read as it is concise and introduces some of the most important aspects of her reign.
Thank you to Pen and Sword for sending me a review copy of this book.
I really enjoyed reading this book about the life of Elizabeth I. There is a lot of focus on various different events of her reign and how they influenced her character and the way she ruled England. The split is pretty much half based around her queenship and half before her queenship, which is really interesting.
Much of the section on Elizabeth’s queenship focuses on Mary Queen of Scots and the relationship between the pair, as well as looking at how Mary’s actions influenced Elizabeth. Although there are a lot of chapters, they are quite short. Perhaps this isn’t the book for you if you are looking for something incredibly detailed, but it introduces a lot of different events and concepts and how the people and events relate to each other.
One thing that did annoy me and has knocked a star off my rating is that there are a few historical errors in the book. It says that the Duke of Cleves had two daughters, but he actually had three – Anne, Amelia and Sybille. John Dudley is described as the Duke of Warwick but was actually the Earl of Warwick. Warwick and Northumberland are described as being two different people but are actually the same person as the Earl of Warwick became the Duke of Northumberland. Anne Boleyn’s last miscarriage is said to have happened in January 1535, but it actually happened in January 1536, no rumours of anything in January 1535 as far as I know.
Despite these few errors I still enjoyed reading it, and I thought that the writing was clear and concise, and the sources were all documented, with plenty of use of primary sources which are quoted throughout. One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read about Elizabeth I, easy to understand and pulling all the chapters back to how the event discussed in that chapter shaped Elizabeth as a queen and woman was fascinating.
The Birth of a Princess
The Execution of Anne Boleyn
The Birth of Prince Edward
The Second and Third Stepmothers of Lady Elizabeth
The Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine Parr
The Death of Henry VIII
The Scandal of Thomas Seymour
The Common Book of Prayer & The Prayer Book Rebellion
The Premature Death of Edward VI – The Tudor’s Last King
The Nine Day Queen
The Wyatt Rebellion
The Death of Queen Mary Tudor
The Coronation of Elizabeth I & The Religious Settlement
The Mysterious Death of Amy Robsart
The Return of Mary Queen of Scots from France
The Death of Lord Darnley
The Abdication of Mary Queen of Scots & Her Escape to England