15th February – Tudor Roses: From Margaret Beaufort to Elizabeth I by Amy Licence
‘All too often, a dynasty is defined by its men: by their personalities, their wars and reigns, their laws and decisions. Their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are often depicted as mere foils; shadowy figures whose value lies in the inheritance they brought, or the children they produced. Yet the Tudor dynasty is full of women who are fascinating in their own right, from Margaret Beaufort, who finally emerged triumphant after years of turmoil; Elizabeth of York’s steadying influence; Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, whose rivalry was played out against the backdrop of the Reformation; to Mary I and Elizabeth, England’s first reigning Queens. Then there were all the others: Henry VIII’s fascinating sisters who became Queens of France and Scotland, and their offspring, the Brandon and Grey women, Lady Margaret Douglas and her granddaughter Arabella Stuart. Many more women still danced the Pavane under Henry’s watchful eye or helped adjusted Elizabeth’s ruff. Without exception, these were strong women, wielding remarkable power, whether that was behind the scenes or on the international stage. Their contribution took England from the medieval era into the modern. It is time for a new narrative of the Tudor women: one that prioritises their experiences and their voices.’
25th February – Cecily Bonville-Grey – Marchioness of Dorset; From Riches to Royalty by Sarah J Hodder
Cecily Bonville-Grey was one of the richest women of her time, inheriting the Harington and Bonville fortunes as a young child. In 1474, at the age of fifteen, she married Thomas Grey, the eldest son of Elizabeth Woodville from her first marriage to Sir John Grey. When Thomas was created Marquis of Dorset a year later, Cecily became the Marchioness of Dorset alongside him. During her lifetime she was connected to many of the fifteenth and sixteenth century personalities that we read about today. Her stepfather was William, Lord Hastings, her mother-in-law Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen. Her mother was a daughter of the great Neville family and her uncle was the Earl of Warwick, also known as the kingmaker having assisted his cousin, Edward IV, in his path to the throne. Her second husband was a son of the ancient Stafford family and Lady Jane Grey was a direct descendant of hers. During the Wars of the Roses and the emergence of the new Tudor dynasty, Cecily was witness to many of the events that unfolded and her own story is intertwined with many of these events. Yet she remains relatively unknown. This is Cecily’s story.
28th February – House of Tudor: A Grisly History by Mickey Mayhew
‘Gruesome but not gratuitous, this decidedly darker take on the Tudors, from 1485 to 1603, covers some forty-five ‘events’ from the Tudor reign, taking in everything from the death of Richard III to the botched execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and a whole host of horrors in between. Particular attention is paid to the various gruesome ways in which the Tudors despatched their various villains and lawbreakers, from simple beheadings, to burnings and of course the dreaded hanging, drawing and quartering. Other chapters cover the various diseases prevalent during Tudor times, including the dreaded ‘Sweating Sickness’ – rather topical at the moment, unfortunately – as well as the cures for these sicknesses, some of which were considered worse than the actual disease itself. The day-to-day living conditions of the general populace are also examined, as well as various social taboos and the punishments that accompanied them, i.e. the stocks, as well as punishment by exile. Tudor England was not a nice place to live by 21st century standards, but the book will also serve to explain how it was still nevertheless a familiar home to our ancestors.’
31st March – The House of Dudley: A New History of Tudor England by Joanne Paul
‘Each Tudor monarch made their name with a Dudley by their side – or by crushing one beneath their feet. The Dudleys thrived at the court of Henry VII, but were sacrificed to the popularity of Henry VIII. Rising to prominence in the reign of Edward VI, the Dudleys lost it all by advancing Jane Grey to the throne over Mary I. Under Elizabeth I, the family were once again at the centre of power, and would do anything to remain there . . .
With three generations of felled favourites, what was it that caused this family to keep rising so high and falling so low? Here, for the first time, is the story of England’s Borgias, a noble house competing for proximity to the throne through cunning, adultery and sheer audacity, revealing some of the period’s most talented, intelligent and cunning individuals.
26th April – Mary I in Writing: Letters, Literature, and Representation: Letters, Literature, and Representation edited by Valerie Schutte and Jessica S Hower
‘This book—along with its companion volume Writing Mary I: History, Historiography, and Fiction—centers on representations of Queen Mary I in writing, broadly construed, and the process of writing that queen into literature and other textual sources. It spans an equally wide chronological and geographical scope, accounting for the years prior to her accession in July 1553 through the centuries that followed her death in November 1558 and for her reach across England, and into Ireland, Spain, Italy, Russia, and Africa. Its intent is to foreground words and language—written, spoken, and acted out—and, by extension, to draw out matters of and conversations about rhetoric, imagery, methodology, source base, genre, narrative, form, and more. Taken together, these two volumes find in England’s first crowned queen regnant an incomparable opportunity to ask new questions and seek new answers that deepen our understanding of queenship, the early modern era, and modern popular culture.’
19th May – The Siege of Loyalty House by Jessie Childs
‘A greater proportion of the British population died in the civil wars of the seventeenth century than in the world wars of the twentieth. Jessie Childs recovers the shock of this conflict by plunging us into one of its most extraordinary episodes: the siege of Basing House. To the parliamentarians, the royalist stronghold was the devil’s seat. Its defenders called it Loyalty House.
We follow artists, apothecaries, merchants and their families from the revolutionary streets of London to the Marquess of Winchester’s mist-shrouded mansion. Over two years, they are battered, bombarded, starved and gassed. From within they face smallpox, spies and mutiny. Their resistance becomes legendary, but in October 1645, Oliver Cromwell rolls in the heavy guns and they prepare for a last stand.
Drawing on unpublished manuscripts and the voices of dozens of men, women and children caught in the crossfire, Childs weaves a thrilling tale of war and peace, terror and faith, savagery and civilisation.
The Siege of Loyalty House is an immersive and electrifying account of a defining episode in a war that would turn Britain – and the world – upside down.’
6th June – Writing Mary I: History, Historiography, and Fiction edited by Valerie Schutte and Jessica S Hower
‘This book―along with its companion volume Mary I in Writing: Letters, Literature, and Representations―centers on representations of Queen Mary I in writing, broadly construed, and the process of writing that queen into literature and other textual sources. It spans an equally wide chronological and geographical scope, accounting for the years prior to her accession in July 1553 through the centuries that followed her death in November 1558 and for her reach across England, and into Ireland, Spain, Italy, Russia, and Africa. Its intent is to foreground words and language―written, spoken, and acted out―and, by extension, to draw out matters of and conversations about rhetoric, imagery, methodology, source base, genre, narrative, form, and more. Taken together, these volumes find in England’s first crowned queen regnant an incomparable opportunity to ask new questions and seek new answers that deepen our understanding of queenship, the early modern era, and modern popular culture.
30th June – Blood, Fire and Gold: The story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici by Estelle Paranque
‘In sixteenth-century Europe, two women came to hold all the power, against all the odds. They were Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici.
One a Virgin Queen who ruled her kingdom alone, and the other a clandestine leader who used her children to shape the dynasties of Europe, much has been written about these iconic women. But nothing has been said of their complicated relationship: thirty years of friendship, competition and conflict that changed the face of Europe.
This is a story of two remarkable visionaries: a story of blood, fire and gold. It is also a tale of ceaseless calculation, of love and rivalry, of war and wisdom – and of female power in a male world. Shining new light on their legendary kingdoms Blood, Fire and Gold provides a new way of looking at two of history’s most powerful women, and how they shaped each other as profoundly as they shaped the course of history. Drawing on their letters and brand new research, Estelle Paranque writes an entirely new chapter in the well-worn story of the sixteenth century.’
Two Houses, Two Kingdoms: A History of France and England, 1100–1300 by Catherine Hanley
‘An exhilarating, accessible chronicle of the ruling families of France and England, showing how two dynasties formed one extraordinary story
The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were a time of personal monarchy, when the close friendship or petty feuding between kings and queens could determine the course of history. The Capetians of France and the Angevins of England waged war, made peace, and intermarried. The lands under the control of the English king once reached to within a few miles of Paris, and those ruled by the French house, at their apogee, crossed the Channel and encompassed London itself.
In this lively, engaging history, Catherine Hanley traces the great clashes, and occasional friendships, of the two dynasties. Along the way, she emphasizes the fascinating and influential women of the houses—including Eleanor of Aquitaine and Blanche of Castille—and shows how personalities and familial bonds shaped the fate of two countries. This is a tale of two intertwined dynasties that shaped the present and the future of England and France, told through the stories of the people involved.
4th August – Henrietta Maria: Conspirator, Warrior, Phoenix Queen by Leanda de Lisle
‘A myth-busting biography of Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, which retells the dramatic story of the civil war from her perspective
Henrietta Maria is one of British history’s most reviled queen consorts. Condemned in her lifetime as that ‘Popish brat of France’, an adulteress and traitor, she remains in popular memory the wife who wore the breeches and turned her husband Catholic, so causing a civil war, and a cruel and bigoted mother.
This biography unpicks the myths and considers Henrietta Maria’s point of view, setting her story as a royal consort alongside that of her mother and sisters. A witty conversationalist, she was a patron of the arts and a champion of the female voice, as well as a mediatrix for her persecuted co-religionists. No bigot, her closest friends included ‘Puritans’ as well as Catholics, and she led the anti-Spanish faction at court that was linked to the Protestant cause in the Thirty Years War.
When civil war came, even the queen’s enemies agreed that Charles would never have survived as long as he did without his She Generalissimo. Seeing events through her gaze reveals the truth behind the black legend of her as a mindless fanatic, and explains her estrangement from her son Henry. Also swept away is the image of the Restoration queen as an irrelevant crone. Henrietta Maria rose from the ashes of her husband’s failures as a ‘phoenix queen’, still wielding influence in religion and politics, while her court was judged to have ‘more mirth’ even than that of the Merry Monarch, Charles II.
It is time to look again at this despised woman and judge if this reviled queen consort is not in fact one of our most remarkable.’
30th August – Interpreting the Death of Edward VI: The Life and Mysterious Demise of the Last Tudor King by Kyra Krammer
‘King Edward VI tends to be glossed over in the historical narrative of the Tudor dynasty. His achievements during his brief time on the throne are eclipsed by the tumultuous and fascinating reigns of his grandfather, father and two half-sisters. This does a great disservice to the precocious and remarkable boy-king. Even with his early death, his effect on English history is undeniable – if he had lived, he would have almost certainly have been considered the greatest of the Tudor monarchs. What killed this impressive young man before he could deepen his mark on history? Moreover, is that medical mystery connected to the premature deaths of the other Tudor male heirs? Interpreting the Death of Edward VI is an exploration into the life, illness and unusually early death of Henry VIII’s overshadowed son. The author uses her expertise in Tudor medical history to investigate and provide an in-depth analysis of the prevailing theories of what might have killed the otherwise healthy young Tudor before he reached adulthood.’
29th September – Mortal Monarchs: 1000 Years of Royal Deaths by Suzie Edge
‘How the monarchs of England and Scotland met their deaths has been a wonderful mixture of violence, infections, overindulgence and occasional regicide. In Mortal Monarchs, medical historian Dr Suzie Edge examines 1,000 years of royal deaths to uncover the plots, accusations, rivalries, and ever-present threat of poison that the kings and queens of old faced.
From the “bloody” fascinating story behind Oliver Cromwell’s demise and the subsequent treatment of his corpse and whether the arrow William II caught in the chest was an accident or murder, to Henry IV’s remarkable skin condition and the red-hot poker up Edward II’s rear end, Mortal Monarchs captivates, grosses-out and informs.
In school many of us learned the dates they died and who followed them, but sadly never heard the varied – and oft-gruesome – way our monarchs met their maker. Featuring original medical research, this history forms a rich record not just of how these people died, but how we thought about and treated the human body, in life and in death.
October – Tudor England: A History by Lucy Wooding
‘When Henry VII landed in a secluded bay in a far corner of Wales, it seemed inconceivable that this outsider could ever be king of England. Yet he and his descendants became some of England’s most unforgettable rulers, and gave their name to an age. The story of the Tudor monarchs is as astounding as it was unexpected, but it was not the only one unfolding between 1485 and 1603.
In cities, towns, and villages, families and communities lived their lives through times of great upheaval. In this comprehensive new history, Lucy Wooding lets their voices speak, exploring not just how monarchs ruled but also how men and women thought, wrote, lived, and died. We see a monarchy under strain, religion in crisis, a population contending with war, rebellion, plague, and poverty. Remarkable in its range and depth, Tudor England explores the many tensions of these turbulent years and presents a markedly different picture from the one we thought we knew.’
30 November – The Woodville Women: 100 Years of Plantagenet and Tudor History by S J Hodder
‘Elizabeth Woodville, queen to Edward IV and mother of the Princes in the Tower. Elizabeth of York, daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and the first Tudor queen of England. Elizabeth Grey, granddaughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Countess of Kildare, whose life both in England and across the Irish sea was closely entwined with the Tudor Court. This is the tale of three generations of women, linked by their name, Elizabeth, and by their family relationship. The story begins in the reign of the great Plantagenet Kings with the life of Elizabeth Woodville and ends in the reign of perhaps England’s most famous dynasty, that of the Tudor kings and queens. Through the life of Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor queen and Elizabeth Grey, cousin to Henry VIII and Mary Tudor, we explore the Tudor court and its dealings with the Earls of Kildare. From the birth of our first Elizabeth to the death of our last, these three women lived through wars and coronations, births and deaths, celebration and tragedy and between them they experienced some of the most exciting and troubled times in English history. Mother, daughter and granddaughter: individually they each have their own fascinating story to tell; together their combined stories take us on a journey through a century of English life.’
30 November – The Final Year of Anne Boleyn by Natalie Grueninger
‘There are few women in English history more famous or controversial than Queen Anne Boleyn. She was the second wife of Henry VIII, mother of Elizabeth I and the first English queen to be publicly executed. Much of what we think we know about her is coloured by myth and legend, and does not stand up to close scrutiny. Reinvented by each new generation, Anne is buried beneath centuries of labels: homewrecker, seductress, opportunist, witch, romantic victim, Protestant martyr, feminist. In this vivid and engaging account of the triumphant and harrowing final year of Queen Anne Boleyn’s life, the author reveals a very human portrait of a brilliant, passionate and complex woman.
The last twelve months of Anne’s life contained both joy and heartbreak. This telling period bore witness to one of the longest and most politically significant progresses of Henry VIII’s reign, improved relations between the royal couple, and Anne’s longed-for pregnancy. With the dawning of the new year, the pendulum swung. In late January 1536, Anne received news that her husband had been thrown from his horse in his tiltyard at Greenwich. Just days later, tragedy struck. As the body of Anne’s predecessor, Katherine of Aragon, was being prepared for burial, Anne miscarried her son. The promise of a new beginning dashed, the months that followed were a rollercoaster of anguish and hope, marked by betrayal, brutality and rumour. What began with so much promise, ended in silent dignity, amid a whirlwind of scandal, on a scaffold at the Tower of London.
Through close examination of these intriguing events considered in their social and historical context, readers will gain a fresh perspective into the life and death of the woman behind the tantalising tale.