Category Archives: Anne Boleyn

Book Review: The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry

THE ARROW CHEST by Robert Parry
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical literary, Victorian Gothic
Createspace, January 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1452801148
342 pages, available in Paperback $11.95 and on Kindle
Author’s Website and Endymion at Night
Review copy provided by the author, Thank You!!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four Big Shiney Stars!

London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne – and she with him – until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realises she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realises he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them inexorably towards self-destruction. Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history. Romantic, atmospheric and deeply dark.

One of my favorite Tudor figures will always be Anne Boleyn. So when a Tudor fan has had her fill of the myriad of Tudor fiction available, what is the next best thing? The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry. Gothic suspense, macabre darkened hallways, bones in an arrow chest. This is how the novel opens up, as painter Roselli is called upon to sketch what is found in this arrow chest, most probably the remains of Anne Boleyn, beheaded queen of tyrant King Henry VIII.

The struggling painter did not particularly enjoy this task, as his favorite past time is painting his childhood friend Daphne. The story then goes on to focus on Amos and Daphne reconnecting during holidays with distinguished English folks, all the while Amos knows that something is just not right with Daphne’s new life as a wife to the churlish Oliver Ramsey. As the story progresses, there are more than a few parallels to Anne Boleyn as we get into more of Daphne’s character. It was played out in a subtle manner though, and only Tudor fans would catch these similarities. Until we got to Oliver Ramsey, who was portrayed just as maniacal as fat King Henry. I appreciated how the author recreated these details without pointing out the fact that Daphne was just like Anne Boleyn, especially since the main protagonist Amos was not an admitted Tudor connoisseur.

Parry’s story is totally character driven from Daphne and Oliver to Amos’ servants. Amos’ maid, Beth, is a strong character as she willingly supports her artistic and eccentric employer even as she wonders if her life as a maid is to be her only destiny. And Amos is constantly seeking knowledge, of which the reader is privy to his musings, of inspirational and spiritual endeavours in many forms which rounded out the driving story of what would happen to Daphne. Would Daphne wind up with the same fate as Anne Boleyn? Would evil Oliver have her shut away in a loony bin because she couldn’t provide an heir? Could Amos save her and allow himself the benefit of her love?

As a Tudor fanatic, I was impressed with the storyline and the way it was written by Robert Parry as he wove the history of the Tudors into the Victorian story of Amos the artist who loves a married woman, who was lucky enough to have the woman love him back. The Arrow Chest imbibes whimsical and mysterious plot lines with Robert Parry’s distinctly descriptive prose. This is a love story channeling the spirit of Anne Boleyn and her tyrannical king, but it is also blended with witty scenes such as revengeful arm wrestling and ghostly tarot card reading scenes. The novel was so pleasurable that I was in no hurry to rush through to the story’s end, perhaps because I feared Daphne would indeed suffer tragedy at the hands of her evil husband just as Anne Boleyn did.

As a self-published author, Robert Parry deserves to be picked up by a major publishing house (and acquire the benefit of a team of editors!). His writing and tone flowed flawlessly, aside from the editing issues. Those readers who are used to the punctuation type errors from advance reader copies like I am would not be disturbed by the errors that are in this copy, but the average reader may be distracted by them. I am editing to insert the fact that after I posted this review that I must have received an earlier edition of the book, as these errors were later corrected in newer copies. I cannot wait for the day when I can think of Robert Parry, “I knew him when…”. Best of luck to him and I cannot wait to get around to reading his previous work, The Virgin and The Crab, as well as anything else he has in that creative mind of his.



Filed under 2011 Reviews, Anne Boleyn, Robert Parry, Tudor, Victorian

>Book Review: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock


Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock
Random House, September 7, 2010 USA
Pages: 416
Hardcover 978-1-4000-6609 $28.00
(UK: Bloomsbury May 4, 2009)
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars, bordering towards 4

She was the first woman to inherit the throne of England, a key player in one of Britain’s stormiest eras, and a leader whose unwavering faith and swift retribution earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Now, in this impassioned and absorbing debut, historian Anna Whitelock offers a modern perspective on Mary Tudor and sets the record straight once and for all on one of history’s most compelling and maligned rulers.

Though often overshadowed by her long-reigning sister, Elizabeth I, Mary lived a life full of defiance, despair, and triumph. Born the daughter of the notorious King Henry VIII and the Spanish Katherine of Aragon, young Mary was a princess in every sense of the word—schooled in regal customs, educated by the best scholars, coveted by European royalty, and betrothed before she had reached the age of three. Yet in a decade’s time, in the wake of King Henry’s break with the pope, she was declared a bastard, disinherited, and demoted from “princess” to “lady.” Ever her deeply devout mother’s daughter, Mary refused to accept her new status or to recognize Henry’s new wife, Anne Boleyn, as queen. The fallout with her father and his counselors nearly destroyed the teenage Mary, who faced imprisonment and even death.

It would be an outright battle for Mary to work herself back into the king’s favor, claim her rightful place in the Tudor line, and ultimately become queen of England, but her coronation would not end her struggles. She flouted the opposition and married Philip of Spain, sought to restore Catholicism to the nation, and fiercely punished the resistance. But beneath her brave and regal exterior was a dependent woman prone to anxiety, whose private traumas of phantom pregnancies, debilitating illnesses, and unrequited love played out in the public glare of the fickle court.

Anna Whitelock, an acclaimed young British historian, chronicles this unique woman’s life from her beginnings as a heralded princess to her rivalry with her sister to her ascent as ruler. In brilliant detail, Whitelock reveals that Mary Tudor was not the weak-willed failure as so often rendered by traditional narratives but a complex figure of immense courage, determination, and humanity.

You must forgive the length of this review. It is indicative of a thought process of my views on Mary and my struggle to find the inner persona of Bloody Mary. Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII is well known as Bloody Mary due to the many burnings of the heretics during her reign as queen. Daughter of the pious Katherine of Aragon, Mary was strictly Catholic and refused to acknowledge anything other that Catholicism just as she refused to acknowledge her half-sister Elizabeth I as anything other than the whore’s daughter. Queen Elizabeth seems to be the one who is remembered more fondly than Queen Mary, even though it was Queen Mary who was the first female anointed queen. Why is Elizabeth the more exalted? Is it the fact that Elizabeth reigned for a longer amount of time and therefore was privy to more successful events such as the defeat of the Spanish Armada? Was it because of the reign of James I after Elizabeth I that everyone started to realize what they were missing once Elizabeth was gone? The reign of Mary was a difficult one with a strained marriage to King Philip of Spain, which the Englishmen did not appreciate a Spaniard and his consorts infringing on their territory. But Mary was always her mother’s daughter, and embraced her Spanish blood along with her uncle Charles V as well as the Catholic religion. The stubbornness and defiance of Mary has always intrigued me, and I am always eager for more light to be shed on the figure of Queen Mary I, who is often overshadowed by her terrorizing father and later the successful reign of her sister.

The purpose of reading biographies for me is to gain further insight into the actual character of the person, and to find some sort of hidden truth that I had previously missed. The persona of “Bloody” Mary is one that has been debated for many years and I wanted to form my own opinion about her. I have read several novels on Mary, but nothing non-fiction that specifically focused on Mary. Those novels would also slant one way or the other in regards to Mary’s character: she was either a religious zealot or a victim of her father’s tyranny. Perhaps she was a little of both. I wanted to discover something tangible that would help me to form a better opinion of her; perhaps something that I had not grasped previously.

With this Tudor biography we are thrusted quickly into the Anne-Boleyn-hater world. Anna Whitelock, author of Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen presents Bloody Mary’s biography in such a way as to martyr Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor while throwing the whole mess of blame on to Anne Boleyn’s doorstep. What I wanted out of this book was another look at Mary along with some little known tidbits and facts, yet I had not expected the extreme slant against Anne Boleyn. Even I realize that Katherine was treated unfairly when Henry’s devotion turned to Anne, but was it all Anne’s fault for the events that occurred that lead to Katherine and Mary’s fall from their father’s grace? Anna Whitelock believes it so. She heavily relies on Chapuys, the imperial ambassador for Charles V, cousin to Katherine, and later Simon Renard. Can we expect an unbiased view from Chapuys?

Whitelock writes: “When Anne went to visit her daughter {Elizabeth} at Hatfield in March, she wasted no time in humiliating her {Mary}. She ‘urgently solicited’ Mary to visit her and ‘honour her as Queen’ saying that it ‘would be a means of reconciliation with the King, and she would intercede with him for her’. Mary replied that ‘she knew no other Queen in England except her mother’ but that if Anne would do her that favor with her father she would be much obliged.”

Why does Whitelock see this as only being humiliating to Mary?  Why can’t she see it as Anne extending an olive branch to her step-daughter to try and keep the peace, with which Mary spurned and shoved away? This point of view and the authors tone turned me off, but once we got past the Anne Boleyn period the author was more pragmatic in her telling of Mary’s story. And since Mary’s story is reflective of the times themselves, the author then went into the main events of England with more detail than I needed, especially where the rest of Henry’s wives were concerned. I am annoyed with the fact that with each Tudor-themed read they must then go into the monotonous stories of the succession of Henry’s six wives. The issue at hand was Mary Tudor, and I didn’t get any information about Mary as the author told the seemingly obligatory six wives story. The relationships of the wives with Mary were not expounded upon either.

The six wives period is heavily laced with Mary’s father instructing her to abandon her mother’s wishes and to obey Henry as Supreme Head of the Church. This was the main storyline for several chapters. Finally, Henry dies, Mary’s young brother Edward is King, and then Edward takes up the task of harassing Mary about her religion. To Mary’s credit, she never disavowed her Catholicism and always stood firm in regards to hearing mass. Even when I had thought it would just be so much easier to live in peace with the kingdom and to go with the flow of the reformation, I was empathetic towards Mary during this time. She was resolute in the manner even after she realized that many of her staunch supporters were punished or killed because of their loyalty to Mary. I would have been interested to read about how Mary reacted to these punishments towards her supporters, but all the author lets through is the fact that Mary moans that she is losing her friends. Is this a selfish motive or was she truly bemoaning their fate? Mary even had the notion to flee England when the pressure for her to convert became too much, but she stood her ground and realized her place was in England and that her destiny was to be its Queen.

When Edward took the throne, the will of Henry was disregarded when Edward Seymour became the Lord Protector. Henry wanted the council of sixteen to help advise Edward but “it was agreed” that Edward Seymour was the best choice as a Lord Protector. Eventually he steps on too many toes and is done away with. Nearing his death and fearing the work he has done is about to be thwarted by the Catholic Mary, Edward declares both of his sisters as illegitimate which means that the Duke of Northumberland’s plans to gain the throne for his own son Guildford could actually work if he married Lady Jane Grey, the next relative in line. Once Edward VI dies, Mary rightfully seizes the chance to rise up and grab the throne herself. This is where I hoped the biography would take off, which was a little more than halfway through the book. She seemingly was the opposite of her brother in beliefs; the author writes that Edward changed his father’s will and the succession that Henry had laid out which had recognized Mary and Elizabeth. Again, there was a lot of back story that could have been told here, but we merely get the fact that John Dudley, Earl of Northumberland was an upstart and he was dealt with summarily after his plan for Lady Jane to become Queen had backfired.

What was heartening was the support for Mary at her accession. I had never read such a swift but thorough account of the rising for Mary to win back the throne. The people loved her, she was their once revered Queen’s daughter, and they were ready for the reform against the papistry to end and the destruction of the monasteries to be over. The people were beginning to show signs of their hatred of a currupted government and Mary was a beacon for Catholicism and to restore a sense of righteousness back to the royal crown. An interesting point that was made by the author was the fact that after years of relying on the Imperial ambassador and Charles V to help Mary’s cause, they decided to not help her win her crown back, as he didn’t think she would be the victor. Whitelock portrays the procession and coronation with an eye for detail unlike I have previously seen. I was amazed at how much the English were ready to welcome Mary as their Queen, regardless that she was a woman. It seems the government under the Lord Protector of Edward VI and then the Dudleys along with the Edwardian Reformation was a bit too much for the common people. Another interesting note was that the everlasting 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, held Mary’s crown for her during the coronation festivities.

Mary’s relationship with her husband Philip seemed to cause the most discontent to her people, and the fact that she failed in providing an heir. Mary was willing to ignore her people’s wishes when she chose to marry Philip, stating that it was for the good of the realm and to secure the Catholic religion for England’s future. Yet, the false pregnancies seemed to turn the people against her, as she lost their favor when she could not secure the Catholic succession, just as her mother could not provide her husband with the longed-for male heir. All eyes turned towards Elizabeth, the next obvious successor, who was Protestant, but the daughter of the hated Anne Boleyn. Which religion to choose? Did some choose Catholicism only to survive Mary’s reign, knowing that soon Elizabeth would pick up the task of the late King Edward’s reformation?

I would have enjoyed seeing more of Mary’s sister, Elizabeth I and how their relationship grew or faltered, but there was not much that included Elizabeth during the bulk of the biography except that Mary did not trust her and supposed her to be her mother’s daughter and a heretic. Elizabeth was implicated in the several plots that occurred during Mary’s reign, but nothing was proven. Edward and Mary seemed cordial enough until Edward became the Protestant leader and Mary skirted around Edward the issues as much as possible.

To move onwards to the writing itself, the sixty-six chapters were extremely short, which makes for an easy look-back type process if you wanted to look into a specific aspect of Mary’s life. The writing was clear and concise and full of details in regards to Mary, but was lacking that a-ha moment of insight for me. The tempo was even and undramatic which made the getting through the book a longer process. I have now gained a new-found respect for Alison Weir, whom others tend to criticize when her sentences contain words such as “could have” “would have” and “perhaps”, but I missed that train of thought in this biography. In contrast, Whitelock stays true to the well known story and the repeating of ‘letters and papers’ even though she tends to rely on not so reliable sources. There were more issues discussed in this biography than are typically addressed in novels, such as those that concerned the many plots that rose against Mary, which helped to illustrate the amount of unrest that Mary’s reign carried. Since I was looking for more insight into the character of Mary, I would have appreciated further intuition which Weir would typically provide with her pondering style of commentary.

There is not an extreme wealth of new information for the Tudor buff with this biography, but plenty of facts that may help to form your own opinion on Mary Tudor, a much misunderstood figure. The author did well when exuding the nuances and the religious beliefs of the times.With the quick chapters and the look at some issues that have not been overly written of before, this would be an excellent read for those who are looking for a look at the Tudor times that Mary lived in and ultimately reigned over. Overall, I came away with the feeling that Mary was not as much a “misaligned” figure as some like to claim. She was stubborn and adamant with her religion which is admirable, yet the amount of intolerance she expressed is still something that I cannot condone. She relied on her husband Philip for affairs of state, as Whitelock stated that she wrote to him imploring him to come back to England to help to control her government. Bringing a foreigner like Philip, who also brought England to war with France, was not something that England was ready for. The acts of Mary should not be reflected on the writer, though, and I would recommend this biography for those who would like to glean more information regarding the beliefs of Mary and to gain an accurate portrayal of England during Mary’s reign. I am still on the hunt for something that would make me more empathetic towards Mary, I really want to like her, but no matter how hard Whitelock tried to show Mary as a misunderstood woman I could not garner that full realization with this telling, though I do agree with the characterization of “the complex figure of immense courage, determination and humanity”.

I found this interesting quote regarding this book, which I agree with in all ways except the great verve part:
‘This rollercoaster of a story is told by Whitelock with great verve and pace…It is good to find this book saluted as ‘an impressive and powerful debut’ by David Starkey: he has recently been quoted denouncing the feminisation of history by women biographers. Clearly he is able to lay aside such sentiments when faced with a proper historical work. Quite right too.’ (Antonia Fraser, Mail on Sunday)


Filed under 16th Century, 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Anne Boleyn, Biography, Bloody Mary, Catherine of Aragon, New Release, Tudor

>Book Review: Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love by Elizabeth Norton


Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love by Elizabeth Norton
Amberley Publishing, 2009
198 pages (not 240)
ISBN-13: 978-1848681026
Review copy provided by the publisher, Thanks!
The Burton Review Rating:

The first ever biography of JaneSeymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, who died in childbirth giving the king what hecraved most – a son and heir.
First biography to show the real Jane Seymour, she may have been submissive and obedient in front of Henry, but her true personality was far more cutthroat.

Huge interest in the wives of Henry VIII, most of his wives are the subject of at least two books, Jane has none.

Jane Seymour is often portrayed as meek and mild and as the most successful, but one of the least significant, of Henry VIII’s wives. The real Jane was a very different character, demure and submissive yet with a ruthless streak – as Anne Boleyn was being tried for treason, Jane was choosing her wedding dress.

From the lowliest origins of any of Henry’s wives her rise shows an ambition every bit as great as Anne’s. Elizabeth Norton tells the thrilling life of a country girl from rural Wiltshire who rose to the throne of England and became the ideal Tudor woman.

Jane Seymour, the mother of Henry’s heir to the throne, is one of the lucky wives of the tyrant Henry VIII that he did not kill or repudiate. Jane Seymour was practically an unknown figure at the Tudor Courts, as she was merely a lady in waiting to both of Henry’s first two queens. Once Queen Anne Boleyn became too cumbersome for Henry to deal with, he allowed his advisors to condemn her to death. Henry had his eyes on Jane Seymour already, and he wanted Anne out of the way, and not in the same way that the tiresome Catherine of Aragon had hung on to him. Anne was executed May 19, 1536 and Henry was betrothed to Jane Seymour the very next day. Tudor films like to portray Jane as a shrew as poor Anne Boleyn looks out from her tower and watches Henry and Jane walking arm in arm. What is the story behind this Plain Jane? The novel by the same name by Laurien Gardner turned her into a naive young lady with very little going for her. I am intrigued by Jane Seymour, the one lady who provided Henry with everything he ever wanted: Edward VI.

Though this is touted as the first ever biography on Jane, I would hesitate to characterize Norton’s book as such. Inevitably in any book that deals with Henry VIII, we must be given the backstory of the wives that came before the one in question. So Norton goes through the motions of again explaining the debacles of the marriages of Catherine and Henry and then Anne and Henry before we get to the marriage of Jane and Henry. No extraordinary information was given, my eyes had glazed over a few monotonous passages. But what I did glean was the information on Jane’s own family which my previous reads had never terribly touched upon, except for the two brothers, Edward and Thomas, who were prominent figures of the Tudor courts.

Norton describes subtly a potential scandal between Jane’s father and Jane’s sister-in-law Catherine Filliol, but sadly she does not elaborate. This would have been eagerly pounced upon if she had. I have also read elsewhere that the elder brother’s (Edward) second wife, Anne Stanhope, was quite a haughty person and very demanding, but this wasn’t expanded upon either. One very interesting sentence at the beginning of the book when Norton was going through the family tree was that “of Henry’s wives and three named mistresses”, four were great grand-daughters of Elizabeth Cheney (would have been nice if she elaborated on more of Elizabeth Cheney). She also said Elizabeth Tilney, daughter of said Cheney, was the grandmother of both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.  I would have enjoyed a pictorial look at the family tree, as the Seymours and the Howards were cousins. These two Elizabeths’ histories sound like it would make a great book.

What is it about Jane that attracted Henry? Simply put, she was the opposite of Anne Boleyn, the former wife. Jane’s motto became ‘Bound to Obey and Serve’ which is also something Anne would not do if she did not agree with Henry. One thing that Jane did not agree with Henry on was the dissolution of the monasteries. This is one subject that the author does take a great deal of time with, and was a refreshing change outside of the typical historical view of this time. Jane was opposed to the desecration, and was not of the protestant leaning that her son Edward had later embraced. The author does state that Jane would probably have been quite distressed to learn how her favored brother Edward had manipulated her son Edward into turning the country into such Protestant zeal.

One nagging thought on the writing of Norton is that she calls Catherine and Anne by their title as Queen several times, and I barely remember she actually calling Jane a Queen, and it perturbed me. It was always simply Jane. Just as Jane was probably always a Plain Jane, as history likes to continually portray her. The inner need I have to categorize Jane as a she-wolf was not achieved in this book, as Jane was just still Jane. She did not seem very interesting, and the author even stated that she was excellent at staying in the background. Was this done on purpose by Jane? Did she know that Henry wanted the epitome of the subservient wife and she purposefully managed to keep her head by portraying no countering thoughts? She couldn’t have become too outraged at the dissolution of the monasteries or we would have heard of it, although according to Norton she did not like it.

The one other thing that we know that she disagreed with Henry on was the attitude towards his first daughter, Mary, aka Bloody Mary. Jane was eight years her senior, and showed great affection towards Mary, since Jane was first a maid to Mary’s mother the first Queen and Jane felt a distinct loyalty towards Catherine and her daughter Mary. Mary also approved of Jane, which was a rarity for Bloody Mary to not turn her back on someone trying to show her a kindness. Anne Boleyn had attempted to show kindness to Mary, but was rejected time and time again with Mary calling Anne the whore. Jane comes along, and Mary and her were fast friends, well before Mary accepted her father Henry as the head of the Church of England. Where Jane showed extreme kindness towards Mary, she seemingly despised young Elizabeth, the daughter of Anne Boleyn. Was it because of that family tie that Jane didn’t like her, or was it merely the fact that Elizabeth was a preciocious toddler?

Information on Jane is scarce. The book is scarce on information on Jane. The book is very short, and is not the 240 pages that is advertised. The text is 158 pages and then the notes, index and bibliography make it 191 pages. There are also the interesting illustrations, some of which are the same ones used in other Amberley publications. It would have been more helpful if the notes were simply footnotes to the actual writing as it would have been better served being displayed as such and not as the afterthought. There were moments when I felt something was interesting and the author made some good points, albeit speculatively. Since the book is short, it was worth the time I did spend on it (a part of a day) but would not recommend spending the list price for it. This would be a good library find, and is perfect for my Tudor Mania Challenge.


Filed under 16th Century, Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Elizabeth Norton, Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Tudor

>Book Review: The Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades


The Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades
ISBN-13: 978-1848683358
Amberley issue 2009; Reissue of earlier edition in 1994
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four stars!

The marital ups and downs of England’s most infamous king. The story of Henry VIII and his six wives has passed from history into legend taught in the cradle as a cautionary tale and remembered in adulthood as an object lesson in the dangers of marrying into royalty. The true story behind the legend, however, remains obscure to most people, whose knowledge of the affair begins and ends with the aide memoire Divorced, executed, died, divorced, executed, survived. David Loades’ masterly book recounts the whole sorry tale in detail from Henry’s first marriage to his brother’s widow, to more or less contented old age in the care of the motherly Catherine Parr.

Historian David Loades presents a convincing narrative as he summarizes the events of Henry VIII’s six marriages in almost a conversational format. This work is a reissue in 2009 put out by Amberley with some updates to a previous 1994 title by the author. Most Tudor fans know the stories of each of the wives and like me, may have read many Tudor novels surrounding these women. I found interesting snippets of information in this summarized work, as well as it reading like a refresher for the times and nuance of Henry VIII. I enjoyed the introduction which explains the importance of the Royal marriage market and the process that was accepted among many to marry towards other Royal houses in order to increase land holding or some royal significance such as potential heirs to a throne. Which was not the way that Henry VIII operated, as he chose from his courtiers and fellow noble families when he was wife-shopping.

Loades presents the wives in chronological order, and I found Catherine of Aragon to be once again a formidable lady who put up with a lot from her King. Loades describes the failed pregnancies and how this disillusioned the King with each passing day. Their daughter Mary comes into play of course, and she is portrayed as extremely hostile once the ‘Boleyn Whore’ succeeds in her quest to the throne. Anne Boleyn’s demise and therefore the chapter on her seemed to go by quickly, as Cromwell effectively removed her and her family from the courts of Henry VIII by the farce of a trial that sent her, along with her fellow accused, to the executioner’s block. One particular sentence that peaked my interest was regarding Anne’s sister-in-law, Lady Jane Parker Rochford: “Not a great deal is known about his{George’s} trial, and the story that his wife testified against him may well be apocryphal. There is some circumstantial evidence that she later accepted his guilt, but that may have been the only way in which she could get a property settlement out of the King.” He goes on to state that the homosexual references to George are probably more of a twentieth-century speculation. Anne’s character was portrayed as a bit of a wild child who did not know how to control her tongue, and Loades stated that it was her wit and sexual attraction that appealed to Henry VIII from the start, but it was this exact wit and sexual attraction that created her downfall as well.  Most of the noble families were hateful of the upstart families of Anne, and they were eager to displace the Boleyns and the Howards from the peerage. The fact that Anne was innocent meant nothing to the jury.

Loades goes on to write that the day after Anne was executed, Henry was betrothed to Jane Seymour. Jane has always been an enigma to me. Was she truly the Plain Jane as contemporary novelists like to characterize her as, or was she eyeing the crown from the beginning of her royal courtship? Loades describes her as frumpy, so what did Henry see in this Plain Jane? The author surmises that she was almost an exact opposite of Anne Boleyn: no overt sexual traits, no outspoken mannerisms and her family was well liked, unlike the Boleyns and the Howards. If hereditary genes had anything to do with it, Jane also showed promise of being fertile, as she was one of nine children. And Henry once got his heir, Jane died, so onwards to wife number four and the first true marriage-for-the-good-of the-realm, which was a disaster in bed because she was not attractive to Henry.

Anne of Cleves is presented a bit different than I had expected; she was still the naive person when it came to consummation, but she was also annoyed with Henry when he later married Catherine Parr, the last wife.
She may have been annoyed when he married Catherine Howard after her, but it was probably too early for her to realize what was going on due to her foreign surroundings. But the flirty Catherine Howard had replaced the unseemly Anne of Cleves, reducing Anne to the status of the sister of the King. Catherine’s character was portrayed as we typically imagine her, and she seems to have been simply to young to deal with the politics of the times and was extremely stupid in her need for boyfriends. The author goes into the political machinations that brought each of these wives in and out of the picture, and the major players in this function. Jane Parker is again mentioned, as she the one who helped Catherine illicitly meet with Culpeper. Loades does not state why Jane would help the young queen to do such a thing, but does note that she quickly gave incriminating information but was not spared execution. And soon Cromwell was also summarily executed in a quick timeline as Loades tells it, lacking the drama of what was going on behind the scenes to cause it to happen. Catherine Parr rounds out the tale as the last wife, yet for once Loades gives some more background information on her as she was once known as Lady Latimer and Catherine Neville. The factions of the families were explained and brought up; from the hated Boleyns to the tolerable Howards to the respectable Seymours.

Although I do enjoy Alison Weir’s writing, the main difference I found in this text by David Loades is that he uses less “supposedlys” and sticks to facts and not conjecture. Those readers wanting a more detailed account of all the events relating to the wives and the times would not get much of a good taste in Loades summary, but this could be very much treated as a summary of the marriages of Henry VIII but not necessarily of the wives themselves. The writing style itself made this an easy read, as Loades never went too far into depth into the politics or religious topics, instead just touching on them as they related to the wives. I enjoyed the sporadic moments on when I felt I learned something new, but I would not recommend this for the very seasoned Tudor reader because of the lack of insight. Alternatively, this would be a fantastic non-fiction read for those who would like to learn a few facts about Henry VIII’s wives without having to suffer through a five hundred page account such as the books by Starkey, Weir, and Fraser. At 240 pages which includes author’s notes and bibliography, Loades successfully reviews the marriages while educating the reader, with a look at some interesting illustrations as well. Loades states that there were plenty of “Six Wives” titles on the market, and especially more recently, and he adjusted this work accordingly as to not saturate the reader with the same amount of facts that have been used and reused and reiterated. Which is why I feel this was an excellent work to read when wanting a quick look into the familiar stories regarding the six wives of Henry VIII.

This book is also perfect for entering my Tudor Mania Reading Challenge and I will include this review link there. I just may win my own contest!


Filed under 2010 Review, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, David Loades, Henry VIII, Jane Parker, Jane Seymour, Katherine Parr, Tudor

>Book Review/Giveaway: The Dark Rose: Book Two in The Morland Dynasty Series by Cynthia Harrod Eagles


The Dark Rose: Book Two in The Morland Dynasty Series by Cynthia Harrod Eagles
Several publishers since 1981
isbn13: 978-1402238161
Reissued in July 2010 by Sourcebooks
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:

The second book in the epic bestselling Morland Dynasty series which spans from the Wars of the Roses to Queen Victoria’s long reign into the courts of kings and the salons of the Regency, onto the battlefields of Culloden and the Crimea, and beyond:

In The Dark Rose, the turbulence of Henry VIII’s reign brings passion and pain to the Morlands as they achieve ever greater wealth and prestige. Paul, great-grandson of Eleanor Morland, has inherited the Morland estates, and his own Amyas is set to be his heir. But Paul fathers a beloved illegitimate son, and bitter jealousy causes a destructive rift between the two half-brothers which will lead to death. Through birth and death, love and hatred, triumph and heartbreak, the Morlands continue proudly to claim their place amongst England’s aristocracy.

I read book one, The Founding, in the Morland series, and found it to be an interesting enough novel to merit reading book number two. Especially since this book two, The Dark Rose, is set against the backdrop of the Tudor era which is my absolute most favorite era and of which I have read about nineteen Tudor themed books in the last year alone. So, I am a stickler for certain things regarding the Tudors. On sentence two of the foreword I was surprised to read that the author believed Henry VIII “had only two mistresses”, and therefore he has been misjudged. We all know that Henry had a son off of Bessie Blount, and that one mistress was Mary Boleyn. I would count Anne Boleyn as a mistress, it is even possible that Jane Popyncourt was his very first mistress. Mary Shelton was his mistress while Anne was pregnant, and Jane Seymour was later his mistress while Anne was reaching her downfall. Catherine Howard was then his mistress while Henry was married to Anne of Cleves. And I also firmly believe that he had many more mistresses who did not leave blatant evidence of being undoubtedly his mistress. I repeat all this to enforce the point that when Eagles stated unequivocally Henry was not so bad simply because he “only had two mistresses” that she states as fact, she turned me off before I had a chance to begin the fictional story she was about to tell. I suppose I am making a mountain out of a molehill but that’s how it began for me. There are more inaccuracies about small facts that the casual reader may not be aware of throughout the novel, but I was.

Although the plot line tries to be impressive as it follows along the intrigues of the magnificent Tudor era, the many characters leave a lot to be desired. Focusing on Paul, the head of the Morland estate, Paul despises his wife Anne Butts and he has a child with another woman. Paul despises his half brother Jack and Jack’s offspring, yet Jack was extremely well liked at home and at court. Which makes Paul hate Jack more. Which make me hate Paul more. Once Paul’s two sons reach majority, Paul’s legitimate son Amyras also despises his half bother Adrian. Negativity abounds. In book one, I was not sympathetic to the main character, Eleanor, as she believed herself to superior to everyone and everything. In book two, Paul is the same way, and I was much more interested in the happier members of his extended family off at court then to be reading about Paul and his son fighting about the illegitimate son (who was always off in a corner brooding, with the thick foreshadowing atmosphere that proved itself towards the last half of the novel). Nannette is the next main character focus, and she was a lot more likable until she beds a family member. But that was how it was done back in the day. Cousins married cousins, so that this story helps to perpetuate the dynasty by Morlands marrying cousins twice over.

There were some well written story lines in the story, such as the sickness that overtakes many of the family members in 1517, the witch factor with Paul’s lover, and the process of Henry VIII disposing of his first wife. I enjoyed how the birth of Katherine Parr was written in and how the family was friends with the Parrs throughout the story. Then again, there were times the plot could have used a bit more meat to it, but not so much as when Anne Boleyn is friends with Margaret (daughter/cousin to someone in the Morlands, I lost track again) we get to read about Margaret creeping up on Anne while she is sleeping so Margaret could sneak a peek at unsuspecting Anne’s Sixth Finger. And then Anne and Henry Percy betroth themselves to each other only to have them banished from court because of it. All of it happened that quickly as I wrote it. Same thing when Paul’s son was married: he was married to a member of Norris family, and just as quickly it is mentioned that he had two sons off of her, then mentioned in passing there were two more, etc., because the story at that point had shifted to his cousin Nannette who became a friend of Anne Boleyn so why revert back to Paul? Just as in book one, I really had trouble keeping some of the Morland members straight, as the characters came and went and died and shifted to somewhere else, never giving me a strong sense of just one single character once it shifted from Paul.

It was always interesting to see where the author inserted the fictional Morlands into the genuine families of the Tudor era. And I don’t want to come off as being so negative about this book, because it really wasn’t that bad, it is just that the characters are written in such negative lights that it is impossible for me to not come off as negative as well. For example, the following train of thought of Paul’s son, Amyas:

His father was nearing fifty, Amyas thought, and evidently did not mean to marry again. What use was his life to him? Once Paul was out of the way, he, Amyas, would change things, put things on a more modern footing, shew the tenants who was master! Paul, in clinging on to his useless life, was being inconsiderate.

{Shew was a word back then. After reading the novel, you’ll get used to it as it is used many times.} I did want to know more about the characters, but it seems they were always just a bit out of reach for me. There are many, many lovers of the Morland Dynasty series out there so I am very aware that I am in the minority for not totally enjoying the writing, but after two novels of not-so-great characters that I could not empathize with, I am going to bide my time before picking up another. I think if I do get around to continuing with this series I will have a better chance of enjoying it as it moves away from favored eras where I won’t be so much in want for more historical accuracy. At least I don’t think I would notice errors as much. I also must disclose to you that I am highly aware this is my opinion and reaction to the book, and my thoughts count pretty little in the grand scheme of things. And since there are so many of the fans out there of the Morland Dynasty, I think that those readers who would enjoy a roving family dynasty style of a read, this is top notch in that area. Be forewarned though, the series is a whopping 34 books in the series. So far.

The first two books did not occur in an immediate timeline, as some of the extended family members rapidly expanded between the time of book one and before book two. Therefore this can easily be read as a stand alone book, as those people who are not yet wary of the Tudor stories would enjoy this as it doesn’t just focus on the many wives of Henry VIII. There are strong themes of the reformist versus the papist, and the most “royal” attention was given to Anne Boleyn since a main character, Nanette, was her close friend in the story. The political times and the major players of the Tudor era represent most of the story line’s backdrop, with the predictable Morlands sitting around the fire talking about the intricate workings of the Tudor court as the Morlands continue to marry within the family.

Read my review of book one in the Morland Dynasty, The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles here.
I am entering this novel in The Tudor Mania Challenge which is ongoing throughout the month of July.
GIVEAWAY… Ends July 2nd.
Comment on this other post… where I had previously announced the Giveaway for both of Cynthia Harrod Eagles’ books one and two of The Morland Dynasty. Follow the rules on that post to enter for the drawing.


Filed under Anne Boleyn, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Henry VIII

>Book Review: Secrets of The Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan *Tudor Mania Challenge!!*


Secrets of The Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington; Original edition (April 27, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0758241993
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a half Stars

When young Mary Howard receives the news that she will be leaving her home for the grand court of King Henry VIII, to attend his mistress Anne Boleyn, she is ecstatic. Everything Anne touches seems to turn to gold, and Mary is certain Anne will one day become Queen. But Mary has also seen the King’s fickle nature and how easily he discards those who were once close to him. . .

Discovering that she is a pawn in a carefully orchestrated plot devised by her father, the duke of Norfolk, Mary dare not disobey him. Yet despite all of her efforts to please him, she too falls prey to his cold wrath. Not until she becomes betrothed to Harry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond and son to King Henry VIII, does Mary finds the love and approval she’s been seeking. But just when Mary believes she is finally free of her father, the tides turn. Now Mary must learn to play her part well in a dangerous chess game that could change her life–and the course of history.

This is another great read to add to your Tudor fiction library. It is full of the Tudor speculation and gossip that Tudor fans have come to enjoy and love, but this is not told in an over the top fashion. It is fast paced and intriguing, as the Tudor courts and the events of the demise of Henry VIII’s wives are merely a backdrop for Mary Howard’s story. Although an avid fan of Tudor history, this particular story is new to me, as I have never registered the fact that the shrewd and cunning Thomas Howard, known to many as simply Norfolk, had a daughter named Mary Howard.

The story begins with Mary Howard’s vicious birth, and it is vicious because Norfolk is busy beating up Mary’s mother Elizabeth Stafford when she is in labor. The entire novel is full of Norfolk abusing the women in his life. His wife, his daughter, and then being the one main force behind both of his niece’s Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard wedding Henry, and eventually their demise. Mary Howard grows up under the thumb of her father, and she finds some comfort with her brother Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, until she realizes he is a chip off the old block. Initially, though, her brother and she enjoyed sharing poems with other literate members of the court. Through all the events of the wives of Henry, Mary is watching and trembling with fear throughout, but it is told with her fresh point of view and made me really care for Mary. It was a sad life for Mary, being unloved, until she finally is wedded to the admirable Henry Fitzroy, who was none other that the king’s own illegitimate son. Just when Mary thinks she will be able to have a life of her own and have babies, which is her deepest wish, her father decides that although they can marry each other, they cannot actually be together till he deems fit.

Mary watches her mother being beaten by Norfolk, and eventually the abuse moves towards Mary as well. These were hard scenes to get through, and displayed a lot of madness and cruelty of Norfolk. Mary is used as eyes and ears for Norfolk at court, and she witnesses the political machinations behind all the evil that occurs at the Tudor Court. It was not all Henry VIII’s doing, it had a lot of Thomas Howard’s hands in it. This is not a depiction that is any way favorable on Thomas Howard by any stretch of the imagination, but makes one wonder what really went on behind the closed doors of the Tudor courts. Along with the relationship with her family, we are also subject to Mary’s friendships with her father’s long-standing mistress Bess Holland, and with friends at court such as Margaret Douglas who was a niece of Henry VIII constantly in the middle of court issues.

This was an impressive debut for Bogdan, covering a lot of material within the myriads of rumors and gossip of the courts, and I enjoyed it immensely. This is a wonderful addition to my Tudor fiction library, though not for those who would prefer more fact than fiction with regards specifically to the Tudors and the mention of some of the rumors that have since been believed as false. The reason they were included is because the author felt it would add to the atmosphere of the Tudor courts, since most of the rumors were believed to be fact at the time. The novel covers the reign of the queens Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr, ending with Edward VI on the throne. As a complete and total Tudor junkie, I found that it was full of suspense, drama, and garnered my admiration for Lady Mary Howard, making me want to look for more information on this young woman who was witness to much of the turmoil of the Tudor courts, and daughter to the creator of many of the secrets of the Tudor courts.

This was my first read specifically for the Tudor Mania Reading Challenge which starts today. See the Challenge post and learn how you can win a book of your choice. Arleigh of and I read this at the same time and we were emailing each other back and forth about a lot of the events in the book. It is a great group read! Her review is here, as part of the Tudor Mania Challenge, so be sure to look for that.

Also, please visit the recent interview I posted with this author, which includes a giveaway for the Autographed finished copy of this book. If you like Tudor fiction, this is an absolute must read for you.


Filed under 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, D.L. Bogdan, Thomas Howard: Norfolk, Tudor

>Book Review: The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy


The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy
Publisher: Kensington (January 26, 2010)
Historical Fiction
ISBN-13: 978-0758238443
Review Copy provided by the author
The Burton Review Rating:


Shy, plain Lady Jane Parker feels out of place in Henry VIII’s courtly world of glamour and intrigue–until she meets the handsome George Boleyn. Overjoyed when their fathers arrange a match, her dreams of a loving union are waylaid when she meets George’s sister, Anne. For George is completely devoted to his sister, and cold and indifferent to his bride. As Anne acquires a wide circle of admirers, including King Henry, Jane’s resentment grows. But if becoming Henry’s queen makes Anne the most powerful woman in England, it also makes her highly vulnerable. And as Henry, desperate for a male heir, begins to tire of his mercurial wife, the stage is set for the ultimate betrayal…

Encompassing the reigns of five of Henry’s queens, THE BOLEYN WIFE is an unforgettable story of ambition, lust, and jealousy, of the power of love to change the course of history, and of the terrible price of revenge.

Tudor fans have long been intrigued by the wife of George Boleyn, Jane Parker, as she was a crucial witness for Thomas Cromwell in condemning George, his sister Queen Anne, and four other men for treason against King Henry VIII. This is the fictional story of Lady Jane Parker, as she first meets George, and begs her father to procure him as a husband for her, and her story lasts until she is also sent to the scaffold, years after her husband.

In this retelling of the Tudor legacy of wives, Brandy Purdy takes the drama and the rumors a step further by adding spice and sexual encounters. Where Philippa Gregory has told a fictional account of the fall of Anne Boleyn and her extended family in The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance, Purdy dresses it up with all of the falsehoods that were bandied about, and stretches it beyond my wildest imaginations.

Much to Jane’s delight, George and Jane are married as she so fervently wished, but seemingly George’s amorous intentions are elsewhere. Ultimately, Jane takes this jealous realization to Thomas Cromwell and secures a reason for King Henry to rid himself of his tiresome wife, Queen Anne. Jane was bent on vengeance, as stated several times in this novel told in a first-person account through Jane, as she was always the one in the background being taunted and ridiculed when all she wanted was to be loved by her husband. She wanted Queen Anne to die, and didn’t care the men she also implicated were to die, but she somehow did not believe her husband would also be sent to the block. She merely wanted Anne out of the picture so that she could have George all to herself.

Immediately we are thrust into the typical Boleyn-hating rumors regarding Anne, such as her sixth finger, the ‘wen’ (witch’s mark) on her neck; Anne giving birth to a two-faced monster; Anne’s sister Mary’s children being Henry’s spawn; George being a homo-sexual..and Purdy adds a few more to the pot by having Jane give birth to Cromwell’s baby..

And once the Boleyns are out of the picture, Jane is back at court tending to Anna of Cleves and then Katherine Howard. Purdy added for dramatic effect the notion that Jane had met this Katherine when Katherine was an adorable five year old, and thus had developed a mothering nature towards Katherine once she was at court. Katherine is oblivious to this one sweet nature of Jane’s, as she blindly cavorts with Thomas Culpepper while she was married to King Henry and thereby seals her doom, along with Jane’s, due to her lust.

Purdy ventures not too deeply into the accused incestuous nature of George and Anne’s relationship, but this is the only freedom that she does not seem to take. She shows the courtiers of Brereton, Weston, Norris, and musician Smeaton as always doting on Anne and seemingly always at court; Smeaton kissing Anne’s hem of her skirt, with all the other gentlemen fawning over Anne at every waking moment, even when she was out of favor with King Henry. The scaffold scenes are all factually wrong, though poignant. The supporting characters of the Tudor court are not dealt with, there were as few names as possible dropped. There is no mention of Jane’s own family once she marries George. I would have loved to know how the Parkers felt about George being executed and their daughter being the cause of it. There are many facts that were disregarded for the sake of a good story, and too much sex was included. For instance, we are also privy to Anna of Cleves and Katherine Howard getting it on. And much wasted seed was spilling down legs at various times.

Much like Gregory’s writing style, Purdy’s own is fast and quick paced, making this a fast read. I hesitate to say ‘easy’ read.. those readers who like their Tudor novels without excessive copulation will be sorely disappointed; as well as those will be disappointed if you prefer the Tudor era novels to stick closer to the actual facts of the times. Purdy takes as many liberties as possible with this telling of the wives of Henry Tudor, in an attempt to offer an exciting alternative to the standard Tudor fiction. If you have little knowledge of the Tudor era, this read may be less grating on your sensibilities as opposed to the latter. But, if you want the “Oh my GOD!” factor this time around, this one would certainly satiate that need. Especially for the fact that sneaky Jane was absolutely everywhere whenever anything was going on at all. I had to roll my eyes back into my head a few times every time she stealthily left the room so she could go hide in a cupboard and watch what was about to occur.

The Boleyn Wife is available February 2010, as a reissue of Purdy’s self-published Vengeance is Mine.


Filed under Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, Tudor


>The Lady in The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir

The Lady in The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir:
Category: Biography & Autobiography
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
On Sale: January 5, 2010
Price: $28.00
Pre-Order Price Guarantee at Amazon ($18.48)
ISBN: 978-0-345-45321-1 (0-345-45321-2)
Review copy provided by Publisher, Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars!

Product Description:

“Nearly five hundred years after her violent death, Anne Boleyn, second wife to Henry VIII, remains one of the world’s most fascinating, controversial, and tragic heroines. Now acclaimed historian and bestselling author Alison Weir has drawn on myriad sources from the Tudor era to give us the first book that examines, in unprecedented depth, the gripping, dark, and chilling story of Anne Boleyn’s final days.
The tempestuous love affair between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn scandalized Christendom and altered forever the religious landscape of England. Anne’s ascent from private gentlewoman to queen was astonishing, but equally compelling was her shockingly swift downfall. Charged with high treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London in May 1536, Anne met her terrible end all the while protesting her innocence. There remains, however, much mystery surrounding the queen’s arrest and the events leading up to it: Were charges against her fabricated because she stood in the way of Henry VIII making a third marriage and siring an heir, or was she the victim of a more complex plot fueled by court politics and deadly rivalry?
The Lady in the Tower examines in engrossing detail the motives and intrigues of those who helped to seal the queen’s fate. Weir unravels the tragic tale of Anne’s fall, from her miscarriage of the son who would have saved her to the horrors of her incarceration and that final, dramatic scene on the scaffold. What emerges is an extraordinary portrayal of a woman of great courage whose enemies were bent on utterly destroying her, and who was tested to the extreme by the terrible plight in which she found herself.
Richly researched and utterly captivating, The Lady in the Tower presents the full array of evidence of Anne Boleyn’s guilt—or innocence. Only in Alison Weir’s capable hands can readers learn the truth about the fate of one of the most influential and important women in English history.”

Although perhaps anti-climatic with the multitude of biographies and Tudor histories, this newest work by historian Alison Weir provides Anne Boleyn enthusiasts with so many detailed accounts of the last four months of Anne’s life that there is little left wanting. It is extensive with the recounting of the events that led to Anne’s arrest, and Weir leaves no stone unturned in her endeavor to relay details from the myriad of sources. Weir uses many sources to quote from, examines, explains, and then succinctly affirms or refutes each fact, and leaves nothing left to our imaginations. I would see this book as a spider web that examines all the related threads formed from conjecture, from various opinions to recorded fact, and Weir weaves all this detail into a reliable work that skillfully observes all facets of the fall of Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn herself has been a sort of enigma for some; there have been many unanswered questions due to the multiple contradicting storytellers of her day and later. Weir attempts to examine all angles and then gives her opinion and why she thinks the certain way about something.

In those tyrannical days of Henry VIII, advisers, friends and bishops would not make their opinions known on most topics until they knew “which way the wind blew”; they dared not risk Henry VIII’s displeasure. The same was true during the arresting process of the accused at this trial of Anne Boleyn. The book focuses on 1536, it encompasses the major events and common views that brought Anne and Henry to their current relationship, with the politics and religious views of the time being spelled out. It details the factions of the times, and who were Pro-Boleyn before Anne’s fall, and who were always anti-Boleyn and sought for the downfall of this upstart family.

Some interesting facts that Weir touched upon were that Anne felt that Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries had gone too far, and that Anne and Henry differed in their opinions about how far the reformation should go. Anne was not as zealous as Henry was, and did not condone the stripping of all of the funds that the Church had once relied on. I also found interesting that there were mentions of three ladies who were the ones to initially stir up the trouble with the accusations of adultery on Anne’s part. There were many more courtiers who were involved in the setting of the snare, moreso than I had once believed. I was also intrigued as to the Catholic traditions that Anne observed before her death.

The threat of regicide, and plotting to take Henry’s life, was actually the coup d’etat that sealed Anne’s fate. Once Cromwell had cast doubt on Anne’s character due to the infidelities he accused her of, and then the horrid accusation of incest, the figurative nail in Anne’s coffin was actually the idea that Anne had plotted with her lovers that she would marry one of them after Henry had died. This is what scared mad Henry the most, because perhaps he WAS bewitched when he fell in love with Anne and felt forced to break with the Roman Church.. perhaps she had sinister tendencies and wished to see Henry dead as well! And obviously, this was all too convenient for Henry to deny in the first place, as he had fallen in love with Jane Seymour months before the trial, and was eager for this way out.

With Anne gone, Henry was free to pursue marital bliss with Jane Seymour and beget the treasured son. I also found it interesting the way that Jane Seymour had conveniently made herself available when Henry tired of Anne, and makes me suspect the innocent Plain Jane characterization. It seems the affair was going on for quite awhile before Anne’s downfall. One cannot help but wonder what would have happened to Jane herself, if she had lived through the dangers of childbirth. Jane had already been chided by Henry to not be meddling in state affairs.. as Anne had also done..

How much of the infidelity accusations Henry truly believed, could not be known, but the fact that Thomas Cromwell had everything neatly tidied up to rid the court of Anne and some of his own meddlesome courtiers makes Cromwell seem like quite the evil person. Quite interesting is the fact that the poet Wyatt and another courtier were accused and arrested as well. Weir details out the methodical process of Cromwell and his friends to ensure the accused (the ones they wanted to be rid of) were found guilty, and each step made my blood boil as I learned how despicable Cromwell really was. I found morbid redemption in knowing that Cromwell would himself wind up with his boiled head on a pike in London at the bequest of Henry just a few years later. This is not to say that I formed this opinion via Weir’s words; she was actually not as judgemental towards Cromwell as I am. She states that he was merely trying to save his own neck, knowing that Henry wanted a way out of the failing marriage, and he is the one who orchestrated it “for the good of the realm” using as many puppets as he could possible find.

In my recent review of “Elizabeth’s Women” by Tracy Borman (which I also enjoyed), I mentioned how I was surprised at the mention of a son to George Boleyn, Anne’s brother. At The Maiden’s Court I mentioned this ‘fact’ as well and felt that it was not possible that George and Lady Jane Rochford had a son. Weir also mentions the son of George Boleyn here, also named George who later becomes the Dean of Lichfield in Elizabethan times, but explains that he is most likely an illegitimate son. I had researched online that this George was given the dean post in 1576, (40 years after the death of the elder George), offering perhaps that this George in question was offspring of a Boleyn relation, of which there were many. There were many more interesting tidbits in Weir’s work, especially pertaining the backgrounds of Smeaton, Norris, Rochford, and Brereton.

Another interesting fact was that Henry Percy, Anne’s very own former betrothed, had reported to Cromwell in April of 1536 that he didn’t like the fact that the ‘lowly’ musician Mark Smeaton was able to afford horses and costumes etc. He hinted to Cromwell that he must have received some sort of reward from the Queen, and even said that he saw Smeaton leaving the Queen’s apartment. Of course Cromwell’s eyes must have gleamed at this offering of information! Yet, had Percy done this out of jealousy? It seems that is the romantic view, where the probably most likely view is that Percy did not like the Queen very much at all, and Weir goes into this further.

I would hesitate to call this a biography of Anne Boleyn, as it is much more encompassing as to be a portrait of the tumultuous times that caused Anne’s disgrace. I enjoyed the surprising facts that I had not known before, and I think that anyone who is interested in the politics that brought Anne’s reign to an end should read this. I was also disheartened to learn that there are very few accurate likenesses of her due to the fact that her memory was effectively banished from England and destroyed pretty much immediately. But it made me happy to learn that for at least the last forty years, a group of trustees has ordered for a bunch of roses to be placed at her tomb on the anniversary of her death. (Online it states that this has been since the 1850’s).

This book is a treasure trove of encyclopedia-like facts regarding Anne and her contemporaries, but those who enjoy the drama of Anne’s demise may feel a bit over loaded with the many names, dates and facts, who said what and when. Yet, it is these minute details that Weir divulges which make this a wonderful read for the Tudor fanatic due to the unveiling of lesser-known ideas. Although in most passages it reads well and is not difficult to follow, there is so much information that it seems easier to digest in slow spurts. This is not a book to read at the doctor’s office or with toddlers demanding attention. Weir does not attempt to force her opinion on her readers, she lays it all out for us to digest and appreciate its worth; and then she simply states what she has come to believe to be the most logical explanation for the events in question. This is a vast work of intricacies of politics and factions and how they all came together to bring about the death of Henry VIII’s second wife.

Since this book is full of details… facts..(I need another word for details today), this is not Light Reading. Yes, despite my overall euphoria over this read, there were a couple of days there I could not get in ten pages at a time. It was loaded with itsy bitsy teeny facts that weren’t making their way into comprehension. (*True story- I momentarily closed my eyes and briefly fell asleep while on lunch, reading the book, and awoke with such a start that my freshly brewed cup of tea went flying through the air and made quite a clatter and a mess. That was within that couldn’t-get-in-ten-pages-period.) The multiple versions of each and every event started to grate on my nerves as well. We would sit through a page worth of a ‘chronicle’ and then Weir would smartly tell us.. haha.. the buffoon.. that could not be true (not exactly in those words, hence the adjective ‘smartly’). Obviously she was trying to prove the point how easily the facts got distorted, therefore people grew to believe wrong accounts and form misguided opinions; these same opinions that formed History. And every now and then I got perturbed at the redundancy of certain phrases, such as apocryphal. I had to look it up. Another word I had to look up was buggery. EWWWW. And I don’t like reading books that pose questions. “Just how honorable were Henry’s intentions?” etc. I would like to read the book, not have a back and forth conversation. But then I bucked up and read on, and the last chapters of the book had me riveted. I was then disappointed that I finished it. Vicious cycle of Reading a Good Book. And I wouldn’t mind having that conversation now.

My other gripe? Having merely the Advance Reading Copy, and not the final version. I am missing the photos and the all-important index. I would definitely love to have the final copy so that I could go back and forth with the index, which is a weird habit of mine when I just feel the need to absorb facts. But I did have the Select Bibliography, which is a book collector’s dream my husband’s nightmare!! And I would love to add this latest wealth of Weir knowledge to my special favorite Tudor bookcase, which is where its rightful place would be.

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Filed under Alison Weir, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, Review, Tudor

>Teaser Tuesday~ The Lady in The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir


TEASER TUESDAYS is hosted by ShouldBeReading and asks you to:
♠Grab your current read.
♠Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

By Alison Weir The Lady in The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir:
The records relating to the legal process against Anne Boleyn and Lord Rochford were long thought to have been suppressed in their entirety, but in fact the Henrician government took unwonted care to preserve some of the official documentations of these proceedings. Nevertheless, crucial papers are missing: actual trial records, details of the evidence produced in court, statements known to have been made by Smeaton and Norris, depositions of all the witnesses who had supposedly been questioned, and manuscripts of the interrogations of Smeaton, Norris and the Queen.” ~page 219



Filed under Anne Boleyn, Meme, Teaser Tuesdays, Tudor

>Book Review: Elizabeth’s Women:The Hidden Story of The Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman

Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman
Non-Fiction; September 2009
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd ISBN-10: 0224082264
Review copy provided by the publisher
Purchase it from Amazon UK, Google Checkout,BookDepositoryUK,BookDepositoryUSA

The Burton Review Rating:4 Stars at The Burton Review

Product Description:

“Elizabeth I was born into a world of women. As a child, she was served by a predominantly female household of servants and governesses, with occasional visits from her mother, Anne Boleyn, and the wives who later took her place. As Queen, Elizabeth was constantly attended by ladies of the bedchamber and maids of honor who clothed her, bathed her and watched her while she ate. Among her family, it was her female relations who had the greatest influence: from her sister Mary, who distrusted and later imprisoned her, to her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, who posed a constant and dangerous threat to her crown for almost thirty years.

Despite the importance of women in Elizabeth’s life, most historians and biographers have focused on her relationships with men. She has been portrayed as a ‘man’s woman’ who loved to flirt with the many ambitious young men who frequented her court. Yet it is the women in her life who provide the most fascinating insight into the character of this remarkable monarch. With them she was jealous, spiteful and cruel, as well as loyal, kind and protective. She showed her frailties and her insecurities, but also her considerable shrewdness and strength. In short, she was more human than the public persona she presented to the rest of the court. It is her relationships with women that hold the key to the private Elizabeth.

In this original chronicling of the life of one of England’s greatest monarchs, historian Tracy Borman explores Elizabeth’s relationships with the key women in her life. Beginning with her mother and the governesses and stepmothers who cared for the young princess, including her beloved Kat Astley and the inspirational Katherine Parr, “Elizabeth’s Women” sheds new light on her formative years. Elizabeth’s turbulent relationships with her rivals are examined: from her sister, ‘Bloody’ Mary, to the sisters of Lady Jane Grey, and finally the most deadly of all her rivals, Mary, Queen of Scots who would give birth to the man Elizabeth would finally, inevitably have to recognize as heir to her throne. It is a chronicle of the servants, friends and ‘flouting wenches’ who brought out the best – and the worst – of Elizabeth’s carefully cultivated image as Gloriana, the Virgin Queen, in the glittering world of her court.”

My thoughts:

In a world inundated with modern biographies on Elizabeth I, historian Tracy Borman sets out to explore the world of women surrounding Elizabeth I in hopes of shedding light on Elizabeth’s character and personality. Who helped shaped Elizabeth into such a formidable female ruler, something that was an anomaly in itself? This is a proficient account of the story behind the stories of Elizabeth’s peers, elders and family members that helps the reader to better understand the nuts and bolts of Elizabeth’s mind, which was always skillfully at work.

Despite the bevy of information at our fingertips regarding Elizabeth, she is still one of the most intriguing figures of the Tudor era. Born to Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, she was at first a disappointment to her parents and a kingdom by being a girl. Losing her mother at the age of 3, she was brought up in her own household under the tutelage of preferred women. It is with these women that Elizabeth begins cultivating her personality and understanding the way of the tumultuous world around her. Although we regularly hear of the men or the favorites in Elizabeth’s life, rarely do we obtain as much information about the women who constantly attended her and were with her behind the scenes.. until now.

Borman begins the story of Elizabeth with her mother, Anne Boleyn, and gives the standard biography of Anne. Although at first she praises Anne’s intellect, she soon writes of her haughtiness and the swift fall from Henry’s graces once they were finally married. Seemingly it was once they were married that Anne’s and Henry’s marriage fell apart. Elizabeth seems to have not had much of a relationship with Anne or Henry as a child, except for Anne sending gifts to Elizabeth.

Borman explains how Elizabeth interacted with a few of the children and caretakers, such as Blanche Parry (who ended up serving Elizabeth for over fifty years), and she goes into small biographies of these secondary women as she introduces them to us. Another woman who also stayed with Elizabeth a lengthy amount and therefore gets more attention is the governess, Kat Astley or Ashley, who joined Elizabeth’s household when Elizabeth was 3 and Kat was probably in her late twenties. Elizabeth was very close to her as Kat was one of the few people in her life that stayed with her in her younger years. I had not realized the extent of Kat’s own learning because of the ridicule she receives by historians due to the Thomas Seymour affair. After Lady Bryan it was Kat who had continued to instill a love for learning, which was further enhanced by her last stepmother, Katherine Parr and the tutors she chose for Elizabeth.

For some thirty, forty and fifty years these few women such as Kat Ashley, Blanche Parry and Anne Dudley stayed nearby with Elizabeth and were close confidantes and friends to the Queen. Borman details the relationships of the women with Elizabeth in a way that has not been done before, when before we had always heard of merely Cecil influencing Elizabeth’s political decisions. We now get a look on the inside, the female perspective of jealousy, vanity and courtly appearance.

One of the most interesting continuing relationships in Borman’s book deals with the sisterhood of Elizabeth and Mary. Borman tells of how Elizabeth interacted with her half siblings, and I was surprised to learn that her sister Mary had eventually grown fond of Elizabeth, probably out of pity, once Anne Boleyn was executed. Knowing of the strained relationship Mary and Elizabeth had once their brother King Edward had died, I had never assumed that they were in reality ever close, yet Borman portrays Mary as once being maternal to Elizabeth. They were 17 years apart, and with Elizabeth being 3 when she lost her mother, Mary may have felt sorry for her. But soon enough for Mary’s reign, Mary was calling Elizabeth the bastard, the daughter of the little whore, etc. A swift turn around for Mary’s feelings towards Elizabeth, but one wonders all the different mechanisms at play, such as Mary’s jealousy towards Elizabeth as Elizabeth grew into a pleasant looking young lady and Mary was soon eclipsed by Elizabeth’s sharp mind and looks. Anne of Cleves favored Elizabeth over Mary, and Katherine Parr did as well. Did Mary resent this? Once Mary was queen, she did not trust Elizabeth, and denounced her right to the succession. There was a long look at Mary Tudor here, but was appreciated for the fact that we were able to glean what Elizabeth learned from Mary’s reign.

One of the many people who helped shaped the progress of Elizabeth’s reign was her cousin, Mary the Queen of Scots. Most people know of the outcome that happened after Mary had been a burr in Elizabeth’s side for nearly thirty years, and the author devotes an entire 50 page chapter to this conflict. This is where the allure of the book started to lose its luster, but it picked up its interesting pace as soon as the Queen of Scots was dealt with. I had already read enough accounts of these two Queen’s relationships and there was not any new insight for me regarding the effects of their animosity towards each other. Those who are not acquainted with that story may not be as disappointed as I was to see so much time devoted to this, however.

Of some of the influencers and courtiers that we read about are the Seymour family, the Sidneys, and Lettice Knollys (who married Elizabeth’s favorite, Leicester, much to Elizabeth’s chagrin). We also are treated to accounts regarding Bess of Hardwick, married to George Talbot, both as she was a gaoler for Mary Queen of Scots and later when Arbella was growing up into an eccentric young lady. Other characters include Bess Throckmorton who shocked Elizabeth by becoming pregnant by Sir Walter Ralegh, and the cousins Katherine and Mary Grey who posed a threat to Elizabeth’s throne.

There are several color photos in the book as well which I enjoyed perusing. Most I had seen elsewhere but one in particular stood out: Queen Elizabeth in Old Age at The Bridgeman Art Library
Queen Elizabeth I, with time and death waiting, looking over her shoulder. Circa 1620
Those who are looking for more insight into the characters surrounding Elizabeth during her life will not be disappointed. Beginning with Anne Boleyn and continuing with the two Queen Mary’s, we are privy to the causes and effects that made Elizabeth who she was, Gloriana. This is thoroughly researched, with the footnotes to prove it, and it is put together effectively. Through the reign of Mary I, we are made to understand how Elizabeth learned from Mary’s mistakes and held fast to her beliefs on how to rule exclusively without a husband or even an heir, as opposed to the hard and unbending rule of her sister. We begin to understand Elizabeth’s decisions on the refusal of marriage when Elizabeth witnesses the catastrophic effects of most marriages of those in power, from her father to her sister. We learn that Elizabeth had a strict expectation of the women in her chambers and wished for them to not marry at all, and was hard on those that strayed from the virginal status.

This is not just another biography of Elizabeth I or the history of Elizabethan England. In fact, Borman successfully dodges that bullet by not repeating many of the historical events that happened during Elizabeth’s life, and even skips those that greatly effected her. For instance, the author does not discuss the fatal period of Lady Jane Grey’s reign, nor does she go into the Dudley plot which scared Elizabeth half out of her mind as she was imprisoned when her sister was Queen and there is no mention of the burning of heretics. This is a fulfilling account of the women who definitely instilled Elizabeth’s characteristics and beliefs into her heart and mind. Moreover, I would recommend reading a biography on Elizabeth I before reading this one due to the nature that this is more of a study and commentary on those surrounding her who helped to shape the character of Elizabeth. It would be hard to understand the ramifications of some of the things that Elizabeth encountered in her relationships that are discussed here without knowing any of the political and biographical history of Elizabeth I. If you do not feel intrigued by the persona of Elizabeth I, this is not the book for you. I had hoped for more of a finishing commentary as a summary on Elizabeth from the author’s opinion; but overall I was sad that I had completed this book because I was enjoying my enlightened status of understanding Elizabeth as a woman, as the Virgin Queen, and why she chose that status for herself. There was the blurb about George and Jane Boleyn having a son which I disagree with, and the excessive information on the Queen of Scots negated a star for me. I enjoyed 95% of this book, being a Tudor fanatic that I am, and I definitely recommend this book for anyone who has an interest in the workings of Elizabeth’s mind, and of the many supporting or bothersome women in her life.

Heather from The Maiden’s Court was my Buddy-Reader for this read, and we interacted with these questions (*please see Part Two at The Maiden’s Court):
Before opening the book, Elizabeth’s Women, what are your expectations and what do you hope to learn?
Heather: I don’t really know all that much about Elizabeth yet, so I hope that I can learn a lot. One thing that I would like to learn more about is more about the relationship between her and her sister, Mary.

Marie: I am hoping for an otherwise unknown look at some of the ladies that surrounded Elizabeth. I would love to know if these women shared any secrets that now reveal interesting traits of Elizabeth.

(Before reading the book) Who are you most interested in as far as a peer or friend to Elizabeth?
Heather: The two books that I have read about her so far have mentioned a lot about Kat Ashley – that is definitely one. I would also like to see how she interacted with her numerous step mothers.

Marie: My favorite contemporaries of Elizabeth are Lettice Knollys, and Bess of Hardwick (AKA Elizabeth Talbot). I would love to learn more.

After the first chapter on Anne Boleyn, what are your reactions to the book so far?
Heather: It definitely did not give Anne any sort of a break – she is portrayed as someone who only looked out for herself and moving up. It also seems to be more sympathetic to the Princess Mary.
Marie: I was a little perturbed that the moles and extra fingernail were pointed out, but that reasoning or other theories were not used as well. Anne is portrayed as haughty.

Was there anything new that this author presented about Anne Boleyn that you didn’t know before?
Heather: There were only a couple small things – she was only the second Queen of England who came from an aristocrat family since 1066. Also, she kept his sister Mary’s child away from court because it had a mental disability – this was not something I had ever heard.

Marie: I hadn’t fully grasped that Anne had been at Henry’s court in Queen Katherine’s retinue for four years before Henry started to pay attention to her. She probably had no idea during those years how much would dramatically change for her. What were Anne’s hopes and dreams during those years? Was she focused on Henry Percy, who had broken a previous betrothal to be with her?
Most of the details were the same types of things in other biographies of Anne, but I was intrigued at the intellect Anne had shown at an early age, as this was the same for her daughter Elizabeth. Anne was chosen over her sister Mary to attend the French courts because of the superiority & presence of mind that Anne had over her sister.

What do you think of the role Lady Bryan played in raising Elizabeth, especially after the loss of her mother?
Heather: I think that she was very instrumental in making sure that Elizabeth was shielded as much as possible from the outburst of anger at Anne and what happened after her execution. She was one of the most stable things in Elizabeth’s life and think that she should really be commended for keeping things relatively the same for her when everything was changing rapidly. It could have been a very different outcome for Elizabeth if Lady Bryan had not fought for her.
Marie: In the tumultuous world of being a daughter of the slandered queen, Elizabeth seems lucky to have had someone to care for her so diligently regardless of the status of her mother and Elizabeth being called a bastard by her own father. She provided a stable environment for the child which is a blessing for Elizabeth.

What are your opinions of the relationships of Elizabeth with her stepmothers?
Heather: It doesn’t surprise me that Jane had little interest in Elizabeth – after all, she had just replaced her mother in a horrible way. It does surprise me a little that she favored Mary, almost over the children that her and Henry would have. It always surprises me to hear how Anne of Cleves had such an influence on the girls and had a good relationship with Henry after their marriage was annulled. Katherine Howard’s relationship is exactly how I imagined it. She was young and liked gifts and showered these on Elizabeth. She was also similar to Anne Boleyn in these ways. The similarities were probably what led Elizabeth to be very shocked at the loss of Katherine in the same manner as her mother. I think Katherine Parr had the greatest influence in the ways of thinking that Elizabeth manifested. Katherine oversaw her education and through that Elizabeth learned Humanism, the reformed religion, and how to rule among other things. She also gave her someone stable to relate to.

Marie: I was impressed at how Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves had forged their relationship even after Henry had chosen another wife after Anne of Cleves. Elizabeth was ever the pragmatic, and was kind to the succession of her father’s wives, and one can base many theories on how this formed Elizabeth’s opinions of marriage altogether. The relationship with Catherine Howard was glazed over in the book, but the fact of the closeness in age to the two Borman states that this would have a profound effect on Elizabeth. Besides the kindness shown by Anne of Cleves to Elizabeth, Katherine Parr was probably the most influential as far as political ideas and religious theories, and through Borman’s recounting of the relationship I see just how important Katherine Parr was to the development of the basis of Elizabeth’s beliefs regarding state policies and religion.

For the Chapter titled Governess, what was the most interesting thing you learned?
Heather: I couldn’t believe how involved Kat was in the Seymour Scandal. She continually kept pushing for Elizabeth to marry Seymour. Also being a gossip, she wasn’t able to keep her mouth shut, which got them into a lot of trouble. For someone who was supposed to be looking out for Elizabeth she made some huge errors in her judgment. I had never heard that there had been rumors when Elizabeth left the house of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour that she was pregnant – I kind of think they were just that, rumors.

Marie: Kat Astley/Ashley was also brought up with an education which was unheard of in most families, but the use of the intellect did not bleed through to her common sense. I had known she was involved in the Thomas Seymour affair and did not know how to act properly and with the proper airs, but the fact that she was indeed and educated girl was not known to me before. Elizabeth at age 15 showed more common sense and intelligence than Kat did when she was in her forties at the time of the Seymour scandal.

See Tracy Borman‘s site for upcoming events in the UK, her friend and fellow historian Alison Weir are hosting several discussions regarding Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I. Borman is also the author of Henrietta Howard: King’s Mistress, Queen’s Servant.
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Filed under Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Arbella Stuart, Bess of Hardwick, Bloody Mary, Elizabeth I, George Talbot, Henry VIII, Lady Jane Grey, Lettice, Review, Robert Dudley, Tracy Borman, Tudor