21st January – Mary and Philip: The Marriage of Tudor England and Habsburg Spain by Alexander Samson
‘The co-monarchy of Mary I and Philip II put England at the heart of early modern Europe. This positive reassessment of their joint reign counters a series of parochial, misogynist and anti-Catholic assumptions, correcting the many myths that have grown up around the marriage and explaining the reasons for its persistent marginalisation in the historiography of sixteenth-century England. Using new archival discoveries and original sources, the book argues for Mary as a great Catholic queen, while fleshing out Philip’s important contributions as king of England. It demonstrates the many positive achievements of this dynastic union in everything from culture, music and art to cartography, commerce and exploration. An important corrective for anyone interested in the history of Tudor England and Habsburg Spain.’
22nd January – Edward II’s Nieces: The Clare Sisters: Powerful Pawns of the Crown by Kathryn Warner
‘The de Clare sisters Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth were born in the 1290s as the eldest granddaughters of King Edward I of England and his Spanish queen Eleanor of Castile, and were the daughters of the greatest nobleman in England, Gilbert the Red’ de Clare, earl of Gloucester. They grew to adulthood during the turbulent reign of their uncle Edward II, and all three of them were married to men involved in intense, probably romantic or sexual, relationships with their uncle. When their elder brother Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, was killed during their uncle’s catastrophic defeat at the battle of Bannockburn in June 1314, the three sisters inherited and shared his vast wealth and lands in three countries, but their inheritance proved a poisoned chalice. Eleanor and Elizabeth, and Margaret’s daughter and heir, were all abducted and forcibly married by men desperate for a share of their riches, and all three sisters were imprisoned at some point either by their uncle Edward II or his queen Isabella of France during the tumultuous decade of the 1320s. Elizabeth was widowed for the third time at twenty-six, lived as a widow for just under forty years, and founded Clare College at the University of Cambridge.’
30th January – The Lost Queen: The Life & Tragedy of the Prince Regent’s Daughter by Anne M Stott
‘As the only child of the Prince Regent and Caroline of Brunswick, Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817) was the heiress presumptive to the throne. Her parents’ marriage had already broken up by the time she was born. She had a difficult childhood and a turbulent adolescence, but she was popular with the public, who looked to her to restore the good name of the monarchy. When she broke off her engagement to a Dutch prince, her father put her under virtual imprisonment and she endured a period of profound unhappiness. But she held out for the freedom to choose her husband, and when she married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg she finally achieved contentment. Her happiness was cruelly cut short when she died in childbirth at the age of twenty-one only eighteen months later. A shocked nation went into mourning for its people’s princess’, the queen who never was.’
30 January – The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk by Kirsten Claiden-Yardley
‘Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk, lived a remarkable life spanning eighty years and the reigns of six kings. Amongst his descendants are his granddaughters, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth I. The foundations of this dramatic and influential dynasty rest on Thomas’ shoulders, and it was his career that placed the Howard family in a prominent position in English society and at the Tudor royal court. Thomas was born into a fairly ordinary gentry family, albeit distantly related to the Mowbray dukes of Norfolk. During the course of the fifteenth century, he and his father would rise through the political and social ranks as a result of their loyal service to Edward IV and Richard III. In a tragic turn of events, all their hard work was undone at the Battle of Bosworth and his father was killed fighting for King Richard. Imprisoned for treason and stripped of his lands and titles, Thomas had to start from the beginning to gain the trust of a new king. He spent the next thirty-five years devoting his administrative, military and diplomatic skills to the Tudors whilst rebuilding his family fortunes and ensuring that his numerous children were well-placed to prosper.’
11th February – Matilda: Empress, Queen, Warrior (paperback) by Catherine Hanley
A life of Matilda-empress, skilled military leader, and one of the greatest figures of the English Middle Ages Matilda was a daughter, wife, and mother. But she was also empress, heir to the English crown-the first woman ever to hold the position-and an able military general. This new biography explores Matilda’s achievements as military and political leader, and sets her life and career in full context. Catherine Hanley provides fresh insight into Matilda’s campaign to claim the title of queen, her approach to allied kingdoms and rival rulers, and her role in the succession crisis. Hanley highlights how Matilda fought for the throne, and argues that although she never sat on it herself her reward was to see her son become king. Extraordinarily, her line has continued through every single monarch of England or Britain from that time to the present day.’
28th February – A Hidden History of the Tower of London: England’s Most Notorious Prisoners by John Paul Davis
‘Famed as the ultimate penalty for traitors, heretics and royalty alike, being sent to the Tower is known to have been experienced by no less than 8,000 unfortunate souls. Many of those who were imprisoned in the Tower never returned to civilisation and those who did, often did so without their head! It is hardly surprising that the Tower has earned itself a reputation among the most infamous buildings on the planet. There have, of course, been other towers. Practically every castle ever built has consisted of at least one; indeed, even by the late 14th century, the Tower proudly boasted no less than 21. Yet even as early as the 1100s, the effect that the first Tower had on the psyche of the local population was considerable. The sight of the dark four-pointed citadel – at the time the largest building in London – as it appeared against the backdrop of the expanding city gave rise to many legends, ranging from the exact circumstances of its creation to what went on within its strong walls. In ten centuries what once consisted of a solitary keep has developed into a complex castle around which the history of England has continuously evolved. So revered has it become that legend has it that should the Tower fall, so would the kingdom. Beginning with the early tales surrounding its creation, this book investigates the private life of an English icon. Concentrating on the Tower’s developing role throughout the centuries, not in terms of its physical expansion into a site of unique architectural majesty or many purposes but through the eyes of those who experienced its darker side, it pieces together the, often seldom-told, human story and how the fates of many of those who stayed within its walls contributed to its lasting effect on England’s – and later the UK’s – destiny. From ruthless traitors to unjustly killed Jesuits, vanished treasures to disappeared princes and jaded wives to star-crossed lovers, this book provides a raw and at times unsettling insight into its unsolved mysteries and the lot of its unfortunate victims, thus explaining how this once typical castle came to be the place we will always remember as THE TOWER.’
5 March 2020 – Daughters of Chivalry: The Forgotten Children of Edward I (paperback) by Kelcey Wilson-Lee
‘Virginal, chaste, humble, patiently waiting for rescue by brave knights and handsome princes: this idealized – and largely mythical – notion of the medieval noblewoman still lingers. Yet the reality was very different, as Kelcey Wilson-Lee shows in this vibrant account of the five daughters of the great English king, Edward I.
The lives of these sisters – Eleanora, Joanna, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth – ran the full gamut of experiences open to royal women in the Middle Ages. Living as they did in a courtly culture founded on romantic longing and brilliant pageantry, they knew that a princess was to be chaste yet a mother to many children, preferably sons, meek yet able to influence a recalcitrant husband or even command a host of men-at-arms. Edward’s daughters were of course expected to cement alliances and secure lands and territory by making great dynastic marriages, or endow religious houses with royal favour. But they also skilfully managed enormous households, navigated choppy diplomatic waters and promoted their family’s cause throughout Europe – and had the courage to defy their royal father. They might never wear the crown in their own right, but they were utterly confident of their crucial role in the spectacle of medieval kingship.
Drawing on a wide range of contemporary sources, Daughters of Chivalry offers a rich portrait of these spirited Plantagenet women. With their libraries of beautifully illustrated psalters and tales of romance, their rich silks and gleaming jewels, we follow these formidable women throughout their lives and see them – at long last – shine from out of the shadows, revealing what it was to be a princess in the Age of Chivalry.’
11th March – Plantagenet Princesses: The Daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II by Douglas Boyd
‘The names of few medieval monarchs and their queens are better known than Eleanor of Aquitaine, uniquely queen of France and queen of England, and her second husband Henry II. Although academically labelled medieval’, their era was the violent transition from the Dark Ages, when countries’ borders were defined with fire and sword. Henry grabbed the English throne thanks largely to Eleanor’s dowry because she owned one third of France. Their daughters also lived extraordinary lives. If princes fought for their succession to crowns, the princesses were traded – usually by their mothers – to strangers for political power without the bloodshed. Years before what would today be marriageable age, royal girls were despatched to countries whose speech was unknown to them and there became the property of unknown men; their duty the bearing of sons to continue a dynasty and daughters who would be traded in their turn. Some became literal prisoners of their spouses; others outwitted would-be rapists and the Church to seize the reins of power when their husbands died. Eleanor’s daughters Marie and Alix were abandoned in Paris when she divorced Louis VII of France. By Henry II, she bore Matilda, Alienor and Joanna. Between them, these extraordinary women and their daughters knew the extremes of power and pain. Joanna was imprisoned by William II of Sicily and worse treated by her brutal second husband in Toulouse. If Eleanor was libelled as a whore, Alienor’s descendants include two saints, Louis of France and Fernando of Spain. And then there were the illegitimate daughters, whose lives read like novels…
18th March – Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester by Robert Stedall
‘In many respects Dudley was the most significant figure of his age. As a great impresario, he showed Elizabeth off to her people to glittering effect and became the forerunner of Shakespearian theatre, combining classicism with ribaldry. He attracted the financing of Drake’s circumnavigation. He was the supporter of academic endeavour, of poetry, and of Puritan scholarship. By employing a network of his own agents, he provided information of crucial importance to Government. He built some of the finest houses and gardens of the age. As Master of the Horse, he developed English bloodstock to provide horses for Royal and military requirements. He saw to it that England’s navy and army was properly prepared to meet Continental aggression when needed. Lord Robert Dudley has faced criticism from historians by competing with William Cecil to gain the ear of Elizabeth I and thwarting his efforts to arrange a political marriage for her to protect against Continental Catholic aggression. There can be no doubt that Elizabeth wanted to marry him. He was devastatingly attractive, athletic and loyal. The text provides compelling evidence that the virgin queen’ spent time in bed with him. An influential and important character of the Elizabethan age, this biography places Robert Dudley within the context of the time and how he navigated court as the favourite of the infamous Elizabeth I.’
27th March – The Queen’s Sisters: The Lives of the Sisters of Elizabeth Woodville by Sarah J Hodder
‘Whether Queen or commoner, the lives of women throughout history is a fascinating study. Elizabeth Woodville, ‘The White Queen’, managed to make the transition from commoner to Queen and became the epitome of medieval heroines – the commoner who married a King. When she became the wife of Edward IV her actions changed the life of her entire family. Vilified both by their contemporaries and by many historians since, the Woodville family were centre stage during the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III. Elizabeth Woodville became the ancestress of future Kings and Queens. This book takes a fresh look at the lives of Elizabeth’s sisters. Although information on them is scarce, by looking at the men they married, their families, the places they lived and the events that they lived through we can catch a glimpse of their lives. Each sister has their own story to tell and they may not have achieved the dizzying heights that their sister did, but they are all fascinating women.’
16th April – Mistresses: Sex and Scandal at the Court of Charles II by Linda Porter
‘According to the great diarist, John Evelyn, Charles II was ‘addicted to women’, and throughout his long reign a great many succumbed to his charms. Clever, urbane and handsome, Charles presided over a hedonistic court, in which licence and licentiousness prevailed.
Mistresses is the story of the women who shared Charles’s bed, each of whom wielded influence on both the politics and cultural life of the country. From the young king-in-exile’s first mistress and mother to his first child, Lucy Walter, to the promiscuous and ill-tempered courtier, Barbara Villiers. From Frances Teresa Stuart, ‘the prettiest girl in the world’ to history’s most famous orange-seller, ‘pretty, witty’ Nell Gwynn and to her fellow-actress, Moll Davis, who bore the last of the king’s fifteen illegitimate children. From Louise de Kéroualle, the French aristocrat – and spy for Louis XIV – to the sexually ambiguous Hortense Mancini. Here, too, is the forlorn and humiliated Queen Catherine, the Portuguese princess who was Charles’s childless queen.
Drawing on a wide variety of original sources, including material in private archives, Linda Porter paints a vivid picture of these women and of Restoration England, an era that was both glamorous and sordid.’
30th April – Elizabeth I: The Making of a Queen by Laura Brennan
‘Elizabeth I is arguably one of the greatest monarchs and women of English history. Against an uncertain political and religious backdrop of post-reformation Europe she ruled at the conception of social modernisation, living in the shadow of the infamy of her parents reputations and striving to prove herself an equal to the monarchs who had gone before her. This book seeks to explore some of the key events of her life both before and after she ascended to the English throne in late 1558. By looking at the history of these selected events, as well as investigating the influence of various people in her life, this book sets out to explain Elizabeth’s decisions, both as a queen and as a woman. Amongst the events examined are the death of her mother, the role and fates of her subsequent step-mothers, the fate of Lady Jane Grey and the subsequent behaviour and reign of her half sister Mary Tudor, along with the death of Amy Dudley, the return of Mary Queen of Scots to Scotland, the Papal Bull and the Spanish Amanda.’
15th July – 1520: The Field of the Cloth of Gold by Amy Licence
‘1520 explores the characters of two larger-than-life kings, whose rivalry and love-hate relations added a feisty edge to European relations in the early sixteenth century. What propelled them to meet, and how did each vie to outdo the other in feats of strength and yards of gold cloth? Everyone who was anyone in 1520 was there. But why was the flower of England’s nobility transported across the Channel, and how were they catered for? What did this temporary, fairy-tale village erected in a French field look like, feel like and smell like? This book explores not only the political dimension of their meeting and the difficult triangle they established with Emperor Charles V, but also the material culture behind the scenes. While the courtiers attended masques, dances, feasts and jousts, an army of servants toiled in the temporary village created specially for that summer. Who were the men and women behind the scenes? What made Henry rush back into the arms of the Emperor immediately after the most expensive two weeks of his entire reign? And what was the long-term result of the meeting, of that sea of golden tents and fountains spouting wine? This quinquecentenary analysis explores the extraordinary event in unprecedented detail. Based on primary documents, plans, letters and records of provisions and with a new focus on material culture, food, textiles, planning and organisation.’
30th July – An Alternative History of Britain: The Tudors by Timothy Venning (paperback)
‘ Continuing his exploration of the pathways of British history, Timothy Venning examines the turning points of the Tudor period, though he also strays over into the early Stuart period. As always, he discusses the crucial junctions at which History could easily have taken a different turn and analyses the possible and likely results. While necessarily speculative to a degree, the scenarios are all highly plausible and rooted in a firm understanding of actually events and their context. In so doing, Timothy Venning gives the reader a clearer understanding of the factors at play and why things happened the way they did, as well as a tantalizing view of what might so easily have been different. Key scenarios discussed in this volume include: Did the pretenders Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck ever have a realistic chance of a successful invasion/coup? If Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIIIs illegitimate son, had not died young, might he have been a suitable King or at least Regent on the Kings death? What if Edward VI had not died at 15 but reigned into the 1560s and 70s? How might the Spanish Armada have succeeded in landing an army in England, and with what likely outcome?
6 August – The Honey and the Sting by E.C Fremantle
Three ways to fall . . .
Forcibly seduced by the powerful George Villiers, doctor’s daughter Hester is cast aside to raise her son alone and in secret. She hopes never to see Villiers again.
Melis’s visions cause disquiet and talk. She sees what others can’t – and what has yet to be. She’d be denounced as a witch if Hester wasn’t so carefully protective.
Young Hope’s beauty marks her out, drawing unwelcome attention to the family. Yet she cannot always resist others’ advances. And her sisters cannot always be on their guard.
When Villiers decides to claim his son against Hester’s wishes, the sisters find themselves almost friendless and at his mercy.
But the women hold a grave secret – will it be their undoing or their salvation?
Because in the right hands, a secret is the deadliest weapon of all . . .’
6th August 2020 – She is But a Woman: Queenship in Scotland 1424-1463 by Fiona Downie (paperback)
‘She is but a Woman, the first in-depth study of medieval Scottish queens, investigates the relationship between gender and power in the medieval Scottish court by exploring the art of queenship as practised by Joan Beaufort and Mary of Guelders, queens of James I and James II. These women were excluded from authority but clearly possessed power as wives and mothers of kings. They established and cultivated relationships with members of the court, learned about Scottish political life and supported their husbands in the business of government. The book examines for the first time the arrivals of Joan and Mary in Scotland, their social and political status, their relationships with their husbands and families, and their roles in international diplomacy. This modern re-evaluation of the role and power of the medieval queen is a thematic exploration rather than a biographical study. It situates the experiences of Joan and Mary within a broader European context and provides a new perspective on Scotland’s political, social and cultural links with Europe in the fifteenth century.
17th September – The White Ship by Charles Spencer
‘The sinking of the White Ship on the 25th November 1120 is one of the greatest disasters that England has ever suffered. Its repercussions would change English and European history for ever.
King Henry I was sailing for England in triumph after four years of fighting the French. Congregating with the king at the port of Barfleur on that freezing November night was the cream of Anglo-Norman society: three of his children, including the only legitimate male heir to the throne, as well as the flower of the aristocracy, famous knights, and mighty courtiers. By 1120, Henry was perhaps the most formidable ruler in Europe, with an enviable record on the battlefield, immense lands and wealth, and unprecedented authority in his kingdoms. Everything he had worked so hard for was finally achieved, and he was ready to hand it on to his beloved son and heir, William Ætheling.
Henry I and his retinue set out first. The White Ship – considered the fastest afloat – would follow, carrying the young prince. Spoilt and arrogant, William had plied his comrades and crew with drink from the minute he stepped aboard. It was the middle of the night when the drunken helmsman rammed the ship into rocks. There would be only one survivor from the gilded roll call of passengers…
Written to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the shipwreck, Charles Spencer evokes the harsh and brutal story of the Normans from Conquest to Anarchy. With their heir dead, a civil war of untold violence erupted, a game of thrones which saw families turned in on each other with English and Norman barons, rebellious Welsh princes and the Scottish king all playing a part in a bloody, desperate scrum for power’
17th September – Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort, Tudor Matriarch by Nicola Tallis (paperback)
‘As the battle for royal supremacy raged between the houses of Lancaster and York, Margaret Beaufort, who was descended from Edward III and proved to be a critical threat to the Yorkist cause, was forced to give up her son – she would be separated from him for fourteen years. Surrounded by conspiracies in the enemy Yorkist court, Margaret remained steadfast, only just escaping the headman’s axe as she plotted to overthrow Richard III and secure her son the throne. Against all odds, in 1485 Henry Tudor was victorious on the battlefield at Bosworth. Margaret’s unceasing efforts and royal blood saw her son crowned King Henry VII, and Margaret became the most powerful woman in England.
Nicola Tallis unmasks the many myths that have attached themselves to Margaret and reveals the real woman: an independent and vibrant character, who would risk everything to become Queen in all but name.’
24th September – The Testimony of Alys Twist by Suzannah Dunn
‘1553: deeply-divided England rejoices as the rightful heir, Mary Tudor, sweeps to power on a tide of populist goodwill. But the people should have been careful what they wished for: Mary’s mission is to turn back time to an England of old. Within weeks there is widespread rebellion in favour of her heir, her half-sister, princess Elizabeth, who is everything that Mary isn’t. From now on, Elizabeth will have to use her considerable guile just to stay alive.
Orphan Alys Twist has come a long way – further than she ever dared hope – to work as a laundress at the royal Wardrobe. There she meets Bel, daughter of the Queen’s tailor, and seems to have arrived at her own happy ending.
But in a world where appearance is everything, a laundress is in a unique position to see the truth of people’s lives, and Alys is pressed into service as a spy in the errant princess’s household. Alys herself, though, is hardly whiter than white, and when the princess is arrested she must make a dangerous choice.’
30th September 2020 – The Boy King by Janet Wertman
‘Motherless since birth and newly bereft of his father, King Henry VIII, nine-year-old Edward Tudor ascends to the throne of England and quickly learns that he cannot trust anyone, even himself.
Edward is at first relieved that his uncle, the new Duke of Somerset, will act on his behalf as Lord Protector, but this consolation evaporates as jealousy spreads through the court. Challengers arise on all sides to wrest control of the child king, and through him, England.
While Edward can bring frustratingly little direction to the Council’s policies, he refuses to abandon his one firm conviction: that Catholicism has no place in England. When Edward falls ill, this steadfast belief threatens England’s best hope for a smooth succession: the transfer of the throne to Edward’s very Catholic half-sister, Mary Tudor, whose heart’s desire is to return the realm to the way it worshipped in her mother’s day.’
30th September – Empress Alexandra: The Special Relationship Between Russia’s Last Tsarina and Queen Victoria by Melanie Clegg
‘When Queen Victoria’s second daughter Princess Alice married the Prince Louis of Hesse and Rhine in 1862 even her own mother described the ceremony as more of a funeral than a wedding’ thanks to the fact that it took place shortly after the death of Alice’s beloved father Prince Albert. Sadly, the young princess’ misfortunes didn’t end there and when she also died prematurely, her four motherless daughters were taken under the wing of their formidable grandmother, Victoria. Alix, the youngest of Alice’s daughters and allegedly one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe, was a special favourite of the elderly queen, who hoped that she would marry her cousin Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and one day reign beside him as Queen. However, the spirited and stubborn Alix had other ideas’
30 September – Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia: Brother and Sister of History’s Most Vilified Family by Samantha Morris
‘Myths and rumour have shrouded the Borgia family for centuries – tales of incest, intrigue and murder have been told of them since they themselves walked the hallways of the Apostolic Palace. In particular, vicious rumour and slanderous tales have stuck to the names of two members of the infamous Borgia family – Cesare and Lucrezia, brother and sister of history’s most notorious family. But how much of it is true, and how much of it is simply rumour aimed to blacken the name of the Borgia family? In the first ever biography solely on the Borgia siblings, Samantha Morris tells the true story of these two fascinating individuals from their early lives, through their years living amongst the halls of the Vatican in Rome until their ultimate untimely deaths. Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia begins in the bustling metropolis of Rome with the siblings ultimately being used in the dynastic plans of their father, a man who would become Pope, and takes the reader through the separate, yet fascinatingly intertwined, lives of the notorious siblings. One tale, that of Cesare, ends on the battlefield of Navarre, whilst the other ends in the ducal court of Ferrara. Both Cesare and Lucrezia led lives full of intrigue and danger, lives which would attract the worst sort of rumour begun by their enemies. Drawing on both primary and secondary sources Morris brings the true story of the Borgia siblings, so often made out to be evil incarnate in other forms of media, to audiences both new to the history of the Italian Renaissance and old.’
16th October – Medical Downfall of the Tudors: Sex, Reproduction & Succession by Sylvia Barbara Soberton
The Tudor dynasty died out because there was no heir of Elizabeth I’s body to succeed her. Henry VIII, despite his six marriages, had produced no legitimate son who would live into old age. Three of the reigning Tudors (Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I) died without heirs apparent, the most tragic case being that of Mary Tudor, who went through two recorded cases of phantom pregnancy. If it were not for physical frailty and the lack of reproductive health among the Tudors, the course of history might have been different.
This book concentrates on the medical downfall of the Tudors, examining their gynaecological history and medical records.’
5th November – The Fallen Angel by Tracy Borman
‘King James has apparently lost his appetite for hunting witches, so the medical skills and herbal knowledge that saw Frances accused of witchcraft no longer seem to hang over her like a death sentence. The King would rather be hunting stag and boar – and Frances’s beloved husband Thomas is firmly established in the royal household as the Master of Buckhounds. Their family is growing and their estates are secure.
But life at court is never without intrigue, jealousy and danger for long, and a new arrival turns the world upside down.
George Villiers is a young man with the face of an angel – and as his many enemies are about to discover, the cunning heart of a devil.
Soon James is totally in thrall to this charismatic new lover. All the King’s former favourites are crushed by Villiers’ lies and ruthless scheming. Thomas’s life is made a misery and Frances is back under suspicion as Villiers – rapidly made the Earl of Buckingham – moves to secure the hand and fortune of her friend Katherine Manners.
Appalled at the courtier’s greed and ambition and the King’s weakness and lust, Frances finds herself drawn back towards her old friend Sir Walter Raleigh and his last, desperate plot to see a Catholic monarch on the throne. And then her troubles really begin…
The Fallen Angel is a standalone novel of thrilling power and emotional drama. It is also the concluding volume in the King’s Witch trilogy, establishing Tracy Borman as one of our leading writers of historical fiction.’
15th November – Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister by Heather R Darsie (paperback)
‘Anna was the ‘last woman standing’ of Henry VIII’s wives ‒ and the only one buried in Westminster Abbey. How did she manage it? Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’ looks at Anna from a new perspective, as a woman from the Holy Roman Empire and not as a woman living almost by accident in England. Starting with what Anna’s life as a child and young woman was like, the author describes the climate of the Cleves court, and the achievements of Anna’s siblings. It looks at the political issues on the Continent that transformed Anna’s native land of Cleves ‒ notably the court of Anna’s brother-in-law, and its influence on Lutheranism ‒ and Anna’s blighted marriage. Finally, Heather Darsie explores ways in which Anna influenced her step-daughters Elizabeth and Mary, and the evidence of their good relationships with her. Was the Duchess Anna in fact a political refugee, supported by Henry VIII? Was she a role model for Elizabeth I? Why was the marriage doomed from the outset? By returning to the primary sources and visiting archives and museums all over Europe (the author is fluent in German, and proficient in French and Spanish) a very different figure emerges to the ‘Flanders Mare’.
30th November – Disability and the Tudors: All the King’s Fools by Phillipa Vincent Connolly
‘Throughout history, how a society treated its disabled and infirm can tell us a great deal about the period. Challenged with any impairment, disease or frailty was often a matter of life and death before the advent of modern medicine, so how did a society support the disabled amongst them? For centuries, disabled people and their history have been overlooked. Very little on the infirm and mentally ill was written down during the renaissance period. The Tudor period is no exception, and presents a complex story and unparalleled. The sixteenth century was far from exemplary in the treatment of its infirm, but a multifaceted and ambiguous story emerges, where society’s ‘natural fools’ were elevated as much as they were belittled. Meet characters like Will Somer, Henry VIII’s fool at court, whom the king depended upon, and learn of how the dissolution of the monasteries contributed to forming an army of ‘sturdy beggars’ who roamed Tudor England without charitable support. From the nobility to the lowest of society, Phillipa Connolly casts a light on the lives of disabled people in Tudor England and guides us through the social, religious, cultural and ruling classes’ response to disability as it was then perceived.’
11th December 2010 – The Death of Amy Robsart: : An Elizabethan Mystery by Sarah-Beth Watkins
‘Amy Robsart was the wife of Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite, Robert Dudley, later Earl of Leicester. In September 1560, she was found dead, her neck broken, at the bottom of a flight of stairs at Cumnor Place. Amy was twenty-eight when she died and her marriage to Dudley had been one of great absences and loneliness. Some said she was ill, others that she was desperate. More sinister rumours talked of murder. In this book we look at Amy’s unsolved death and examine who had motive to commit such a dark deed. Was it an accident, suicide or murder?’