Joan of Arc: God’s Warrior – BBC2 tonight at 9pm with Helen Castor


Helen Castor’s TV programme based on her book about Joan of Arc, will be broadcast this evening on BBC2.

(c) BBC

(c) BBC

‘Writer and historian Dr Helen Castor explores the life – and death – of Joan of Arc. Joan was an extraordinary figure – a female warrior in an age that believed women couldn’t fight, let alone lead an army. But Joan was driven by faith, and today more than ever we are acutely aware of the power of faith to drive actions for good or ill.

Since her death, Joan has become an icon for almost everyone – the left and the right, Catholics and Protestants, traditionalists and feminists. But where in all of this is the real Joan – the experiences of a teenage peasant girl who achieved the seemingly impossible? Through an astonishing manuscript, we can hear Joan’s own words at her trial, and as Helen unpicks Joan’s story and places her back in the world that she inhabited, the real human Joan emerges.’

From: BBC website


The programme is the ‘Pick of the Day’ in The Culture (Sunday Times).

‘Reviews of Helen Castor’s recent book on Joan pointed to a radically austere approach that stuck to 15th-century evidence and renounced hindsight to depict “a life led forwards”. The same austerity is discernible in her television version, in the historian’s lack of interests in the transvestite teenager warrior’s afterlife – as saint, as subject of plays, films and songs, and as poster girl for feminism and France’s far right.

Thus, this is a conventional affair, displaying the same lucidity as Castor’s other TV series, She-Wolves, as it recounts the heroine’s initial successes – victory at Orleans, the dauphin’s coronation – and her subsequent defeats, capture, trial and execution. Throughout, Castor situates Joan within a medieval world view obsessed with identifying the divine will: she was at first accepted as God’s emissary, but it later appeared that he had disowned her and that her “voices” were the devil instead.’

John Dugdale, p.52, The Culture (Sunday Times, 24th May 2015)


Weekend (Daily Mail) gives it 4 out of 5 stars.

‘ This pleasingly straightforward documentary tells the always astonishing story of Joan of Arc, the 15th-century French peasant girl who became a warrior, leading a victorious army against the English. Historian Helen Castor, a relaxed and unfussy presenter, explores Joan’s life with the help of a remarkable manuscript account of her trial for heresy. Joan’s own words, quoted verbatim in the transcript, place her in the world she inhabited, a world where anything was possible to those doing God’s will – as Joan clearly believed she was: ‘In truth, I am sent from God.’

p.45, Weekend (Daily Mail, 23rd May 2015)


You can view clips from the programme here:

BBC2 – Joan of Arc: God’s Warrior


(c) Faber & Faber

(c) Faber & Faber


Further details – Helen Castor

Further details – Amazon.co.uk


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25th May 1553 – The wedding of Lady Jane Grey


Today is the 462nd anniversary of Jane Grey to Guildford Dudley at Durham House in London.


Events by Place – Durham House – 25th May 1553

Was Guildford Dudley a good husband to Jane Grey by Leanda de Lisle

Another look at the wedding of Lady Jane


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Books 2015 – on sale now – 25 Royal Babies That Changed the World: A History, 1066 to the Present by Amy Licence


25 Royal Babies That Changed the World: A History, 1066 to the Present (Paperback) by Amy Licence

(c) Amberley Publishing

(c) Amberley Publishing


‘Babies are born every day, but only once or twice in a lifetime a child arrives who will inherit the throne. In the summer of 2013, the nation watched as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, became a new mother, giving birth to Prince George, our future monarch. The public eye rested once again on the Duchess during her second pregnancy, with predictions, expectations and a flurry of media attention around the birth, but, apart from the flashing cameras and internet headlines, this is nothing new. Royal babies have excited interest since before their births for more than a millennium. When a queen or princess conceived, the direction of a dynasty was defined and the health and survival of the child would shape British history.

Amy Licence explores the stories of some of these royal babies and the unusual circumstances of their arrivals, from the time of the Normans to the twenty-first century. 1470 saw the arrival of Edward, a longed-for son after three daughters, born in sanctuary to Edward IV and his beautiful but unpopular wife, Elizabeth Wydeville; he was briefly King Edward V at the age of twelve, but would disappear from history as the elder of the two Princes in the Tower. In 1511, amid lavish celebrations, Catherine of Aragon gave birth to the boy that would have been the future Henry IX, whose survival would perhaps have kept Henry from having six wives; alas, he was to die after just seven weeks. In 1817 came George, the stillborn son of Charlotte, Princess of Wales; had she not died as a result of the birth, she would have been queen instead of Victoria. This book explores the importance and the circumstances of these and many other arrivals, returning many long-forgotten royal babies to the history books.’

From Amazon.co.uk


Further details – Amy Licence

Further details – Amberley Publishing

Further details – Amazon.co.uk


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My review of ‘In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn’ by Sarah Morris & Natalie Grueninger


(c) Amberley Publishing

(c) Amberley Publishing


‘In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn’ is the perfect companion for those wanting to visit places linked to Henry VIII’s second wife. As well as covering the well-known locations such as The Tower of London and Hever Castle, you can also follow Anne on the royal progress she made with Henry in 1535.

For each location the authors have included its history, how it links to Anne, what remains of the place today and important visitor information. The treasure trove section is a wonderful bonus. It is fascinating to find out about items belonging to or relating to Anne that have survived, even though hardly any are on public display.

Thanks to this book, I have already had a very enjoyable trip to The Vyne, a place I never knew had links to Anne and look forward to planning many more.

By following in the footsteps of Anne, you can also follow in those of Lady Jane Grey. Jane also had links to a number of the places mentioned: Tower of London, Durham House, Sudeley Castle and Palace of Beaulieu (New Hall). The church where Jane’s mother was christened is also mentioned.

I would say that the only thing missing from this book is an index.

Thank you to Amberley Publishing for my review copy.


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12th May 1553 – Spanish Ambassador mentions Lady Jane’s upcoming marriage


On the 12th May 1553, Jehan Scheyfve reported to the Emperor details of Lady Jane’s upcoming marriage to Guildford Dudley.

‘Jehan Scheyfve to the Emperor.

Sire: The King is still indisposed, and it is held for certain that he cannot escape. The physicians are now all agreed that he is suffering from a suppurating tumour (apostème) on the lung, or that at least his lung is attacked. He is beginning to break out in ulcers; he is vexed by a harsh, continuous cough, his body is dry and burning, his belly is swollen, he has a slow fever upon him that never leaves him. A rumour was spread recently that the King was on the way to recovery and his illness was decreasing, to appease the people who were disturbed; and such things were being said, that three citizens who were accused of saying that the King was dead or dying had their ears torn off. The Marquis of Northampton, under colour of going to hunt and of carrying out a bet, has gone to Windsor, one of the principal fortresses in the kingdom, to set it in order and make it safe. It appears that my Lord Cobham has gone to a place called Romney Marsh, between Dover and Rye. He is to get it provisioned. It is a place of easy access and a convenient spot for landing troops.

This Whitsuntide the marriage of the Duke of Northumberland’s son to the eldest daughter of the late Duke of Suffolk is to be celebrated. They are making preparations for games and jousts. The King has sent presents of rich ornaments and jewels to the bride; moreover, by means of the Duke of Northumberland’s intercession, the Earl of Pembroke’s eldest son, who is at present very ill, is to marry the said Duke of Suffolk’s second daughter, and the third is to wed Lord Grey’s son. The Duke of Northumberland will give his daughter to the son of the Earl of Huntingdon, Knight of the Order, and a member of the Council. These lords were not of the Duke’s following and party. On every side, then, plans and preparations are being made to strengthen and consolidate the position. All dues are being collected wherever it is possible to do so, even to the smallest sums and fines owing to the Treasury and Court of Exchequer. The church furniture and ornaments have all been sold for cash. They have laid hands on plate and revenues, and it seems that the bells will be taken soon. The French ambassadors went to Court two days ago. They were received middling well, and according to what some people say, admitted to make their reverence to the King. M. de Boisdauphin took leave of his Majesty. The ceremony was so lightly gone through, I am told, that they did no more than go in and come out. This might have as an object to quiet the common people. It is believed that those in power are making attempts to induce the Lady Mary to come to Court to visit the King, her brother.

London, 12 May, 1553.’


‘Spain: May 1553′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 37-48 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp37-48 [accessed 8 May 2015].


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5th May 1553 – Spanish Ambassador reports on Edward’s illness and a rumour of a remarriage


On the 5th May 1553, Jehan Scheyfve reported to the Bishop of Arras that King Edward VI’s illness was being talked about and dismisses a rumour that the eldest son of the Duke of Northumberland would marry Princess Elizabeth.

‘My Lord: I will add a line to my letters to the Emperor, to let you know that the people are beginning to talk of the King’s illness, and that it is variously discussed. Some say that the Lady Elizabeth, sister to the King, is to come to town shortly; and that the Earl of Warwick, the Duke of Northumberland’s eldest son, wishes to put away his wife, daughter of the late Duke of Somerset, and marry the said Elizabeth. This does not seem likely, at least for some time, as it might cause suspicions and friction between the Dukes of Northumberland and Suffolk, over the recent betrothal (of Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guilford Dudley). Nevertheless the possibility of this divorce was spoken of already a year ago. I beseech your Reverence to favour my recall, and commend myself most humbly to you.

My Lord, I have arranged with the courier, bearer of these letters, that he shall carry them for twelve crowns.

London, 5 May, 1553.’


‘Spain: May 1553′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 37-48 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp37-48 [accessed 8 May 2015].


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Books 2015 – on sale today – Joan of Arc (paperback) by Helen Castor


7 May 2015 – Joan of Arc (Paperback) by Helen Castor


(c) Faber & Faber

(c) Faber & Faber


‘We all know the story of Joan of Arc. A peasant girl who hears voices from God. A warrior leading an army to victory, in an age that believes women cannot fight. The Maid of Orléans, and the saviour of France. Burned at the stake as a heretic at the age of just nineteen. Five hundred years later, a saint. Her case was heard in court twice over. One trial, in 1431, condemned her; the other, twenty-five years after her death, cleared her name. In the transcripts, we hear first-hand testimony from Joan, her family and her friends: a rare survival from the medieval world. What could be more revealing? But all is not as simple as it seems, because this is a life told backwards, in hindsight – a story already shaped by the knowledge of what Joan would become.

In Joan of Arc: A History, Helen Castor tells this gripping story afresh: forwards, not backwards, setting this extraordinary girl within her extraordinary world where no one – not Joan herself, nor the people around her, princes, bishops, soldiers or peasants – knew what would happen next.’

From Amazon.co.uk

Further details – Helen Castor

Further details – Amazon.co.uk


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Books 2015 – on sale today – The Hollow Crown by Dan Jones


30 April – The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors (Paperback) by Dan Jones


(c) Faber & Faber

(c) Faber & Faber


‘The fifteenth century experienced the longest and bloodiest series of civil wars in British history. The crown of England changed hands violently seven times as the great families of England fought to the death for power, majesty and the right to rule. Dan Jones completes his epic history of medieval England with a new book about the Wars of the Roses – and describes how the Plantagenets tore themselves apart and were finally replaced by the Tudors.

With vivid descriptions of the battle of Towton, where 28,000 men died in a single morning, to Bosworth, where the last Plantagenet king was hacked down, this is the real story behind Shakespeare’s famous history plays.’

From Amazon.co.uk


Further details – Amazon.co.uk


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A Realm Divided by Dan Jones added to Books 2015


8 October – A Realm Divided: England in 1215 by Dan Jones

(c) Head of Zeus

(c) Head of Zeus


‘1215 – the penultimate year of the reign of a king with the worst reputation of any in our history – saw England engulfed by crisis.

Weakened by the loss of Normandy, King John faced insurrection by his disgruntled barons. With the assistance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, they drew up a list of their demands. In June, in a quiet Thames-side water-meadow, John attached his regal seal – under oath – to a charter that set limits on regal power. In return, the barons renewed their vows of fealty. Groundbreaking though ‘Magna Carta’ was, it had scant immediate impact as England descended into civil war that would still be raging when John died the following year.

Dan Jones’s vivid account of the vicissitudes of feudal power politics and the workings of 13th-century government is interwoven with a exploration of the lives of ordinary people: how and where they worked, what they wore, what they ate, and what role the Church played in their lives.

From Amazon.co.uk


Further details – Head of Zeus

Further details – Amazon.co.uk


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Jane’s Betrothal Is Announced…


Eric Ives writes that Jane, ‘like the overwhelming majority of girls of her class…came to attention only when it was announced that she was to marry.’ (1) This announcement happened 462 years ago today. Ives states that ‘the earliest evidence of Jane’s betrothal to Guildford is a warrant dated 24 April 1553 to deliver ‘wedding apparel’ to the bride and groom, their respective mothers and also the lady marquis of Northampton.’ (2)

Four days later, the Imperial Ambassador, Jehan Scheyfve, reported news of the upcoming marriage in two reports.

‘Nevertheless, his conduct is open to suspicion, especially considering that during the last few days he has found means to ally and bind his son, my Lord Guilford, to the Duke of Suffolk’s eldest daughter, whose mother is the third heiress to the crown by the testamentary dispositions of the late King, and has no heirs male.’ (3)

He also writes.

‘My Lord Guilford, son of the Duke of Northumberland, is betrothed to the eldest daughter of the Duke of Suffolk, with the consent and approval of the King and his Council. Their marriage is to be solemnized at Whitsuntide.’ (4)

In a further report dated 12 May, the Ambassador includes details of the forthcoming wedding.

‘This Whitsuntide the marriage of the Duke of Northumberland’s son to the eldest daughter of the late Duke of Suffolk is to be celebrated. They are making preparations for games and jousts. The King has sent presents of rich ornaments and jewels to the bride.’ (5)



Sources

1. Ives, E. (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, Wiley-Blackwell, p.183
2. Ibid p.185.
3. ‘Spain: April 1553′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 23-37 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp23-37 [accessed 21 April 2015].
4. Ibid.
5. ‘Spain: May 1553′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 37-48 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp37-48 [accessed 22 April 2015].


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