30th April 2013 – Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen by John Edwards (Paperback)
‘The lifestory of Mary I – daughter of Henry VIII and his Spanish wife, Catherine of Aragon – is often distilled to a few dramatic episodes: her victory over the attempted coup by Lady Jane Grey, the imprisonment of her half-sister Elizabeth, the burning of Protestants, her short marriage to Philip of Spain. This original and deeply researched biography paints a far more detailed portrait of Mary and offers a fresh understanding of her religious faith and policies as well as her historical significance in England and beyond. John Edwards, a leading scholar of English and Spanish history, is the first to make full use of Continental archives in this context, especially Spanish ones, to demonstrate how Mary’s culture, Catholic faith, and politics were thoroughly Spanish. Edwards begins with Mary’s origins, follows her as she battles her increasingly erratic father, and focuses particular attention on her notorious religious policies, some of which went horribly wrong from her point of view. The book concludes with a consideration of Mary’s five-year reign and the frustrations that plagued her final years. Childless, ill, deserted by her husband, Mary died in the full knowledge that her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth would undo her religious work and, without acknowledging her sister, would reap the benefits of Mary’s achievements in government.’
30th April 2013 – Edward III by W Mark Ormrod (Paperback)
‘Edward III (1312 – 1377) was the most successful European ruler of his age. Reigning for over fifty years, he achieved spectacular military triumphs and overcame grave threats to his authority, from parliamentary revolt to the “Black Death”. Revered by his subjects as a chivalric dynamo, he initiated the Hundred Years War and gloriously led his men into battle against the Scots and the French. In this illuminating biography, W. Mark Ormrod takes a deeper look at Edward to reveal the man beneath the military muscle. What emerges is Edward’s clear sense of his duty to rebuild the prestige of the Crown, and through military gains and shifting diplomacy, to secure a legacy for posterity. New details of the splendour of Edward’s court, lavish national celebrations, and innovative use of imagery establish the king’s instinctive understanding of the bond between ruler and people. With fresh emphasis on how Edward’s rule was affected by his family relationships – including his roles as traumatized son, loving husband, and dutiful father – Ormrod gives a valuable new dimension to our understanding of this remarkable warrior king.’
1 May 2013 – The Reign of Mary I by Professor Robert Tittler and Judith Richards (3rd edition)
‘Until recently, the reign of Mary Tudor was generally seen as a ‘sterile interlude’ in the Tudor century, with Mary herself dismissed as ‘Bloody Mary’. Extensive research in the past several decades has overturned these assumptions in almost every respect. In this succinct and up-to-date introduction to Mary’s reign, Tittler and Richards provide new insight into the circumstances of Mary’s accession and go on to show that her reign was a lot more stable, and her regime much more competent and innovative, than once believed.
This fully revised third edition includes a diverse range of primary sources and sheds new light on a variety of topics, such as:
• The complexities of Mary’s relations with Philip of Spain
• The restoration of Catholicism
• The use of visual as well as literary means to legitimize and support Mary’s rule
• The context for the war with France.’
23rd May 2013 – Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court by Anna Whitelock
‘Elizabeth I acceded to the throne in 1558, restoring the Protestant faith to England. At the heart of the new queen’s court lay Elizabeth’s bedchamber, closely guarded by the favoured women who helped her dress, looked after her jewels and shared her bed.
Elizabeth’s private life was of public, political concern. Her bedfellows were witnesses to the face and body beneath the make-up and elaborate clothes, as well as to rumoured illicit dalliances with such figures as Robert Dudley. Their presence was for security as well as propriety, as the kingdom was haunted by fears of assassination plots and other Catholic subterfuge. For such was the significance of the queen’s body: it represented the very state itself.
This riveting, revealing history of the politics of intimacy uncovers the feminized world of the Elizabethan court. Between the scandal and intrigue the women who attended the queen were the guardians of the truth about her health, chastity and fertility. Their stories offer extraordinary insight into the daily life of the Elizabethans, the fragility of royal favour and the price of disloyalty.’
28th July 2013 – The Boleyn Women: The Tudor Femmes Fatals Who Changed English History by Elizabeth Norton
‘Huge interest in the Boleyn family and wives of Henry VIII. First book to consider all of the female members of the Boleyn family. Covers eight generations of Boleyn women from the fourteenth century to 1603. The Boleyn family appeared from nowhere at the end of the fourteenth century, moving from peasant to princess in only a few generations. The women of the family brought about its advancement, beginning with the heiresses Alice Bracton Boleyn, Anne Hoo Boleyn and Margaret Butler Boleyn who brought wealth and aristocratic connections. Then there was Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, who was rumoured to have been the mistress of Henry VIII, along with her daughter Mary and niece Madge, who certainly were. Anne Boleyn became the king’s second wife and her aunts, Lady Boleyn and Lady Shelton, helped bring her to the block. The infamous Jane Boleyn, the last of her generation, betrayed her husband before dying on the scaffold with Queen Catherine Howard. The next generation was no less turbulent and Catherine Carey, the daughter of Mary Boleyn fled from England to avoid persecution under Mary Tudor. Her daughter, Lettice was locked in bitter rivalry with the greatest Boleyn lady of all, Elizabeth I, winning the battle for the affections of Robert Dudley but losing her position in society as a consequence. Finally, another Catherine Carey, the Countess of Nottingham, was so close to her cousin, the queen, that Elizabeth died of grief following her death. The Boleyn family was the most ambitious dynasty of the sixteenth century, rising dramatically to prominence in the early years of a century that would end with a Boleyn on the throne.’
17th October 2013 – Tudor: The Family Story by Leanda de Lisle
‘The Tudors are a national obsession. But, as Leanda de Lisle shows, beyond the familiar headlines, and deep into their past, is a family still more extraordinary than the one we thought we knew.
The Tudor canon typically starts with the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and really picks up with Henry VIII and the Reformation. But our story starts earlier, with the obscure Welsh origins of Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur, the man who would become known simply as ‘Owen Tudor’ and fall (literally) into a Queen’s lap and later her bed. It continues with the courage of a pregnant thirteen-year-old girl who went on to found and shape the Tudor dynasty; and the childhood and painful exile of her son, who would become Henry VII.The colossus of the next century, Henry VIII, his wives, and sisters, are given a fresh perspective in this context and show the sister Queens Mary and Elizabeth in a most unexpected light.
Here is the story of a dynasty’s rise and fall. It presents a family struggling at every turn to establish their right to the throne; a family dominated by remarkable women doing everything possible to secure influence and the family line. Packed with all the headlines we know and love and with many new revelations along the way, it brings to life in a completely new – and very human way – this extraordinary family and their times.’
5th November 2013 – Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir