Book Review: “Six Tudor Queens- Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen” by Alison Weir

9781472227713Henry VIII’s wives were some of the most fascinating women of the Tudor Dynasty.  Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, the mother of Mary I, and the first wife Henry divorced. Anne Boleyn, the mother of Elizabeth I and the first English queen to be executed. Anne of Cleves, the wife Henry did not like and divorced. Katherine Howard, the second wife Henry executed, and Katherine Parr, the wife who outlived Henry. All of these women were unique, however, there was only one who gave Henry the son that he so desperately desired. Her name was Jane Seymour. Her death was well documented since she died shortly after giving birth to Edward, yet we really don’t know who she was or what her life was like. Alison Weir decides to explore Jane’s life in her third book of the Six Tudor Queens series, “Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen”.

So what makes Jane such a mystery? In her author’s note, Alison Weir explains what we know about Jane and why she was a challenge to write about:

Jane Seymour’s career spanned three of the most tumultuous years in England’s history. She was at the centre of the turbulent and dramatic events that marked the Reformation, a witness to the fall of Anne Boleyn, and an adherent of the of traditional religion at a time when seismic changes were taking place in the English Church. Had she left behind letters giving insights into her views on these events, we would know much more about the role she played in them- but she didn’t and therefore she remains an enigma. Historians endlessly debate whether or not Jane was the demure and virtuous willing instrument of an ambitious family and an ardent and powerful king; or whether she was as ambitious as her relations and played a proactive part in bringing down the Queen she served. It is impossible, given the paucity of the evidence, to reach a conclusion. And yet a novelist approaching Jane Seymour must opt for one view or the other. For me, this posed a challenge, which set me poring once more over the historical evidence on which this book is closely based, looking for clues as to how to portray her. (Weir, 503).

Weir introduces us to Jane and the Seymour family on the wedding day of her eldest brother Edward to Catherine Fillol. This marriage was doomed to fail as there was a huge scandal that rocked the Seymour family to its core. During this time, at least according to Weir’s novel, Jane was contemplating becoming a nun, but alas, it was not the lifestyle for her. Jane would eventually move to the court of Katherine of Aragon to work for the Queen. Jane is content with her new life inside the royal court, but that all changes when Anne Boleyn starts to have a relationship with Henry VIII.

Jane was not the biggest fan of Anne Boleyn and she stayed with Katherine of Aragon for as long as she could. Eventually, Jane made her way into the court of Anne Boleyn and fell in love with Henry VIII. Jane sees a softer side of Henry, a side that is not often portrayed. As Anne fell from favor, Jane rose to become the next wife and queen of Henry VIII. It is Anne’s death that haunts Jane as she questions whether she did the right thing falling in love for the King. Jane is a strong and loving character who cares about her family, Henry and the Catholic Church. She works hard to bring Mary, Katherine of Aragon’s daughter, back to her father’s good side, as well as restoring the monasteries that Henry was destroying. Jane’s love and her courage to do what was right for her country and those who were close to her defined her life.

This third book in the “Six Tudor Queens” series is an absolute delight to read. It continues the trend that the first two books set, one of opening the readers’ eyes to another side of Henry VIII’s queens. Alison Weir’s Jane Seymour is full of strength and love for others that you can’t help but like her character. Weir combines events that happened with how Jane might have reacted to create a strong story full of love and heartache. Her life and her beloved son changed England forever. If you want a fascinating and complex story of Jane Seymour’s short life, I highly recommend you read the third book of the “Six Tudor Queens” series by Alison Weir, “Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen.” It is an absolutely eye-opening novel.

Book Review: “A Column of Fire” by Ken Follett

9780451477996_p0_v1_s550x406After the death of Henry VIII and Edward VI, there was an explosion of religious intolerance, not just in England, but in Europe as a whole. Many believe that it was Mary I “Bloody Mary” who really started this trend, however, the fires of hatred between Protestants and Catholics extended further into the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I of England. We often focus on the monarchs and their inner circles during this time and how the religious persecutions affected the decisions that they made. That tells only part of the story, but how did this religious fighting between Protestants and Catholics affect the normal person? What were their lives like? Ken Follett explores this topic in his third book in his historical fiction series, the  Kingsbridge Series, “A Column of Fire”.

Every historical fiction book needs a great opening to engage the reader and Ken Follett delivers with his prologue:

We hanged him in front of Kingsbridge Cathedral. It is the usual place for executions. After all, if you can’t kill a man in front of God’s face you probably shouldn’t kill him at all. The sheriff brought him up from the dungeon below the guildhall, hands tied behind his back. He walked upright, his pale face defiant, fearless. The crowd jeered at him and cursed him. He seemed not to see them. But he saw me. Our eyes met, and in that momentary exchange of looks, there was a lifetime. I was responsible for his death, and he knew it. I had been hunting him for decades. He was a bomber who would have killed half the rulers of our country, including most of the royal family, all in one act of bloodthirsty savagery- if I had not stopped him. I have spent my life tracking such would-be murderers, and a lot of them have been executed- not just hanged but drawn and quartered, the more terrible death reserved for the worst offenders. Yes, I have done this many times: watched a man die knowing that I, more than anyone else, had brought him to his just but dreadful punishment. I did it for my country, which is dear to me; for my sovereign, whom I serve; and for something else, a principle, the belief that a person has the right to make up his own mind about God. He was the last of many men I sent to hell, but he made me think of the first…”(Follett, prologue).

This story follows the lives of several different people and their families, but the main story focuses on a man named Ned Willard. After he can’t marry the girl he loves, Margery Fitzgerald,  and his family is crushed by bad investments, he decides to work for a young Elizabeth Tudor, who would later become Elizabeth I. His works will lead him all over England and Europe to help thwart plots to kill Elizabeth and replace her with a Catholic ruler. One of his biggest opponents is the elusive Jean Langlais, a man who works in the shadows, yet he is closer than Ned thinks.

What Follett does so well is that he incorporates people from other countries into this story. Sylvie Palot from France, the young Protestant bookseller, who is not afraid to sell Bibles to those who wish to own a Bible. Pierre Aumande, the man who will do anything in order to gain power. Alison McKay, the fictitious best friend of Mary Queen of Scots, who would do anything for her queen. Ebrima Dabo, a slave who will do anything to be free. Barney Willard, Ned’s brother, who wants nothing in life, except to sail the high seas looking for adventure.

Follett’s cast of original characters adds a depth to an already tumultuous time in European history. Follett is able to blend the fictitious characters with real historical figures and actual events like the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the death of Mary Queen of Scots, and the Spanish Armada.

This is my first book by Ken Follett and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were so many twists and turns in this story that I was not expecting that I really could not stop reading this book. I found it rather engaging and exciting. I found it interesting that Follett decided to end the book during the reign of James I and that he called King Philip II of Spain by his other less common Spanish name Felipe. These are more stylistic choices instead of historical choices.

Overall as a historical fiction book about the religious persecution in the Elizabethan era, I found this book dynamic and thrilling. Although this is the third book in a series, I believe it can stand on its own.  After reading this book, I really want to go back and read the first two books of the series. If you want a great historical fiction book that you can easily get lost in, I enthusiastically recommend you read “A Column of Fire” by Ken Follett.

Book Review: “The Autobiography of Henry VIII” By Margaret George

ZZZ032590-BKHenry VIII is one of the most notorious kings who ever ruled England. He had six wives, two of which were executed, three legitimate children who would change England forever, and  he decided to break from Rome and create his own church. Henry was such a larger than life figure, yet when it comes to historical fiction, he tends to play a smaller part in books about his six wives and is often portrayed as a villain. Henry doesn’t get to have his own voice, in historical fiction, on some of the most important parts in his life, so Margaret George decided to give him one in her book, “The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers,” to explain what could have been going on in his mind during these pivotal moments.

What makes Margaret George’s book unique is the addition of Will Somers, Henry’s fool, who acts as a commentator, and in some cases, acts as the voice of reason after the fact. Will Somers explains some of the most complex issues during Henry’s reign, including what it meant to be king:

To be a King is to be un-ordinary, extraordinary: because we will have it so, we demand it, as we demand our carpenters make smooth-sliding drawers. Much of Henry’s behaviour is incomprehensible if judged as the actions of an ordinary man; as King, it appears in a different light. If a man is consciously trying to be an ideal King, an outsize King, then all the more so. And there can be no wavering, no half-measures. One must be King every instant, while retiring to the privy stool as well as in state audiences. There is no respite: the mask of royalty must gradually supplant the ordinary man, as sugar syrup replaces the natural flavors in candied fruit and flowers. They retain their original outward appearance, but inside are altogether changed in substance. Harry bore this burden easily, and wore his regality with a splendid conviction. What this cost him as a man becomes apparent as one reads on in his journal. (George, 105).  

George’s book begins with a conversation between Will Somers and Catherine Knollys about the actual journal and why he was giving it to Catherine. Henry begins his “autobiography” with his childhood and his relationship with his siblings, especially his brother Arthur, his father Henry VII, and his mother Elizabeth of York. It was interesting to see how Henry might have viewed his relationship with his family, most importantly with his “miserly” father Henry VII. I really do not agree with this view of Henry VII myself, but I think how Henry was portrayed as the second son was very fascinating.

The main part of this book and Henry’s life was his marriages. Starting off with his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, George explores how Henry fell in love with each woman he called, at one point or another, his wife and queen and ultimately each woman’s different fate. What was interesting was that George seemed to play with the myths that surrounded the women in Henry’s life, like Anne Boleyn having a sixth finger and that she was a witch (which are not true at all). The part that surprised me the most about this book was how much he grieved over love lost, especially with Jane Seymour. It showed a softer side to Henry and gave him more of a humanistic element to his story.

Aside for marital and familial elements of Henry’s life, George also explores the religious issues of his reign, as well as Henry’s government. We see how relationships with the Catholic Church sours and how it really affects him as a man. We see how long time friends of Henry’s quickly turn to enemies and how his relationships with other monarchs ebb and flow.

Overall Margaret George gives us a full and complete story of Henry VIII’s life while being entertaining and intriguing. I read this book several years back and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I found myself enjoying it even to this day. George was able to bring Henry VIII and his court to life in a way that made you feel like this “journal” could have been real. If you want a fun, long read about King Henry VIII, I highly suggest you read, “The Autobiography of Henry VIII” by Margaret George.

Book Review: “Elizabeth I” by Anne Somerset

915mqJWdp2L.jpgQueen Elizabeth I, “the Virgin Queen”, was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. She was the step sister to Edward VI and Mary I. Her story is full of so many twists and turns, starting from the very beginning, that it is almost a miracle that she lived and became queen. So what type of trials and tribulations did Elizabeth go through to become one of the most successful rulers in English history? What was her life like? Anne Somerset decides to explore these questions, and more,  in her book, “Elizabeth I”.

Anne Somerset puts Elizabeth’s reign into perspective:

When Elizabeth ascended the throne, her kingdom was weak, demoralized and impoverished. A member of Parliament subsequently recalled how at her accession, England was ‘in war with foreign nations, subject to ignorant hypocrisy and unsound doctrine, the best sort under great persecution, some imprisoned, some driven to exile for their conscience, the treasure… corrupt.’. Under Elizabeth, the nation regained its self-confidence and sense of direction. At a time when the authority of the majority of her fellow monarchs was under threat or in decline, she upheld the interests of the Crown while not encroaching on those of her subjects, restored the coinage, and created a Church which, for all its failings, came close to being truly national. While many European countries were being rent by civil war, insurrection and appalling acts of bloodshed , she presided over a realm which (with the exception of her Irish dominions) was fundamentally stable and united. She herself was proud of the contrast between the condition of her own kingdom and that of others….Besides this, Elizabeth was responsible for raising  England’s international standing, defying the most powerful nation in Christendom, and frustrating Philip II’s attempts to overrun both England and France. (Somerset, 570).  

Anne Somerset begins her book with Elizabeth’s birth, the fall of her mother Anne Boleyn, and the death of her father Henry VIII. She then transitions to where Elizabeth was during the reigns of her step siblings, Edward VI and Mary I, which includes her take on Elizabeth’s relationship with Thomas Seymour and Catherine Parr. Somerset does not spend a lot of time in this part of Elizabeth’s life because her real focus is Elizabeth I and her reign.

Starting with Elizabeth’s coronation and the first year of her reign, Somerset breaks her chapters down by certain years and the different conflicts that occurred during that time. I did appreciate this aspect of her book, but it did make for very long chapters. The middle of her book had a chapter on Elizabeth’s court and culture, which I found quite appropriate since the court was the center of Elizabeth’s world. Somerset included information that tends to be overlooked in other biographies of Elizabeth I. For example, she went into depth about the Ridolfi Plot, which was before the famous Babington Plot, and is often overlooked. It is that attention to detail which I found rather enjoyable.

While I was reading this book, it felt like I was discovering a new side of Elizabeth I, which I loved. I have read many biographies about Elizabeth I since she was my favorite Tudor queen, but this one felt different. I actually learned a lot of new information about Elizabeth and her reign that I did not know. If you want a fresh take on Elizabeth I, her life and her reign, I highly encourage you to read Anne Somerset’s book “Elizabeth I”.

Biography: Kat Ashley

Maiden name: Katherine Champernowne
(Born around 1502- Died around 1565)
Believed to have been the daughter of Sir John Champernowne and Margaret Courtenay.
Married to John Ashley.
Kat Ashley was the governess of the young Elizabeth Tudor, who would become Queen Elizabeth I and they would be close friends later in life.

Not much is known at Kat Ashley’s early life. We do know that she was born Katherine Champernowne and that she may have been born around 1502. We are not quite sure who her parents were, but we believe that they were Sir John Champernowne and Margaret Courtenay.

When Edward VI was born, Elizabeth lost her governess Lady Bryan, who became Edward VI’s governess and Elizabeth went into the care of Blanche Herbert, Lady Troy. Lady Troy was Elizabeth’s Lady Mistress until she retired in either 1545 or 1546. Katherine Champernowne was appointed as a waiting gentlewoman in July 1536 and when Elizabeth was four years old, in 1537, Kat became Elizabeth’s governess. Kat must have been well educated since she taught Elizabeth astronomy, geography, history, mathematics, French, Flemish, Italian and Spanish.

In 1545, Katherine Champernowne, at the age of 40, married Sir John Ashley, Elizabeth’s senior gentleman attendant. Sir John Ashley was a distant cousin of Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn. Life would drastically change for Kat and Elizabeth. In 1543, Henry VIII married his last wife Katherine Parr, who allowed Elizabeth to stay at court. In 1547, Henry VIII died, leaving the the throne to his young son Edward VI. Kat and Elizabeth went to live with Katherine Parr at Chelsea, with her new husband Sir Thomas Seymour, the brother of the Lord Protector Edward Seymour and uncle to King Edward VI.

Thomas is reported to have gone into the Princess Elizabeth’s bedroom repeatedly in the mornings to tickle her and playfully wake her. One time, it is said that Thomas tore Elizabeth’s gown to shreds while in a garden. At first, it is said, that Kat thought it was amusing, but she then saw this as extremely concerning. Despite Kat’s desperate attempts to make him leave, he would not leave. But, at the time Katherine Parr got upset and instead of being angry at her husband, she was mad at Elizabeth and Elizabeth was sent away. Elizabeth and Kat would never see Katherine Parr again.

Katherine Parr died soon after due to childbirth in 1548 and that is when rumors began to spread about the inappropriate relationship between Elizabeth and Thomas. In order to get down to the truth of the matter, Kat Ashley was arrested on January 21, 1549, along with Sir Thomas Parry, and they were interviewed by Sir Robert Tyrwhitt. He found that Kat Ashley had done nothing treasonous and she was released 13 days before Thomas Seymour’s execution. During the time that Kat was in prison, Blanche Parry became Elizabeth’s Chief Gentlewoman.
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Kat was able to be reunited with Elizabeth until Elizabeth was sent to the Tower under the orders of Mary I in 1554. Kat was able to be reunited with Elizabeth again in October 1555, but Kat was arrested again in May 1556 for owning seditious books and she was thrown into Fleet Prison for three months. After her release, Mary forbade Kat from seeing Elizabeth ever again.

In 1558 after Mary I’s death, Elizabeth overturned this order and Kat became the First Lady of the Bedchamber. In the summer of 1565, Kat Ashley died, which was a horrible loss for Elizabeth.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kat_Ashley
http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/katashley.htm
http://thetudorenthusiast.weebly.com/my-tudor-blog/the-life-and-death-of-kat-ashley

Biography: William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley

240px-William_Cecil,_1st_Baron_Burghley_from_NPG_(2)(Born September 13, 1520- Died August 4, 1598)
Son of Sir Richard Cecil and Jane Heckington.
Married to Mary Cheke and Mildred Cooke.
Father of Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, Frances Cecil, Anne Cecil, Countess of Oxford, Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, and Elizabeth Cecil-Wentworth.
William Cecil was one of Elizabeth I’s closest advisors who was by her side during some of the most difficult decisions during her reign.

William Cecil was born on September 13, 1520 in Bourne, Lincolnshire, to Sir Richard Cecil, the owner of Burghley Castle, and his wife Jane Heckington. William was the couple’s only son and he was put to school first at Grantham and then at Stamford. In May 1535, at the age of fourteen, he went up to St John’s College, Cambridge, where he was brought into contact with the top tutors of the time, Roger Ascham and John Cheke, and acquired an unusual knowledge of Greek. He also acquired the affections of Cheke’s sister, Mary, and was in 1541 removed by his father to Gray’s Inn, without, after six years’ residence at Cambridge, having taken a degree. Four months later, Cecil married Mary Cheke.

The only child of this marriage, Thomas, the future earl of Exeter, was born in May 1542, and in February 1543, Mary Cheke died. Cecil would marry again three years later, on December 21, 1546, to Mildred Cooke, who ranked among Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I as one of the most learned ladies in all of England. Mildred’s sister Anne was the wife of Sir Nicholas Bacon and the mother of Sir Francis Bacon.

In 1542, for defending royal policy, Cecil was rewarded by Henry VIII with a place in the Court of Common Pleas, which was a court of five members of the king’s council that heard the pleas of the people. A year later, in 1543, he first entered Parliament, but but his name does not show up on parliamentary records until 1547, when he was elected for the family borough of Stamford. Earlier in 1547, he had accompanied Protector Somerset( Edward Seymour) on his Pinkie campaign, being one of the two “judges of the Marshalsea,” i.e. in the courts-martial; the other judge was William Patten.

In 1548, Cecil became a private secretary for Edward Seymour, the Lord Protector, as well as work as a clerk at the court of requests, that was set up to hear poor men’s complaints. In 1549, Somerset experienced his first fall from power and Cecil was sent to the Tower of London for a brief time. Three months later, Cecil was able to ingratiate himself with John Dudley, earl of Warwick and he was released from prison. On September 5, 1550 Cecil was sworn in as one of King Edward’s two secretaries of state and in April 1551, Cecil became chancellor of the Order of the Garter.

During this time, Edward VI was extremely ill. To protect the Protestant government from the accession of a Catholic queen, Warwick forced King Edward’s lawyers to create an instrument setting aside the Third Succession Act on June 15, 1553, which barred both Elizabeth and Mary, from the throne, in favour of Lady Jane Grey. Cecil resisted for a while, but at Edward’s royal command he signed it. Cecil was not a huge fan of this idea and when Warwick marched against Mary Tudor, Cecil decided to switch sides and join Mary’s cause. Mary did not punish Cecil for his earlier support of Lady Jane Grey and Mary debated keeping him on as her Secretary of State. Cecil declined the offer because of his Protestant beliefs. Unlike other Protestants, Cecil stayed in England, but he did do some minor tasks for Mary and helped escort Cardinal Pole to England. He was elected to Parliament as knight of the shire for Lincolnshire probably in 1553 , 1555 and 1559 and for Northamptonshire in 1563. Cecil did oppose one of Mary’s policies in 1555 that was a bill that proposed to strip the Protestant exiles of their property.

Cecil was able to meet with Elizabeth starting in 1550 when he became Surveyor of her properties. During Mary’s reign, Cecil would visit Elizabeth in secret and he was one of the first to flock to Elizabeth in Hatfield in November 1558. The day after Mary’s death was the day of Elizabeth’s accession and Cecil was already working hard to establish good relationships with European leaders for Elizabeth. Elizabeth decided to make Cecil her Secretary of State, which was a wise choice. It is said that “No prince in Europe had such a counsellor as she [Elizabeth] had of him[Cecil].”( Somerset, 64).

His first major diplomatic achievement was to persuade a reluctant queen to intervene in Scotland and conclude the Treaty of Edinburgh (1560), which removed French forces from Scotland. His gift for compromise facilitated the church settlement in 1559; his financial sense, the recoinage in 1561. Elizabeth’s flirtation with Robert Dudley, however, weakened Cecil’s position. Despite threats of resignation and opposition to Robert Dudley, Cecil retained Elizabeth’s trust and was rewarded with the lucrative mastership of the Court of Wards in 1561.

Decision on the succession was necessary to settle policies. While Cecil wanted to thwart Dudley, he sympathized with Protestant efforts in Parliament to make Elizabeth marry. He resisted Mary Stuart’s claims to succeed but recommended the Habsburg suitor, the Archduke Charles. Dudley, capturing the initiative, backed an ill-fated expedition to France to aid the Huguenots, which ended in the Treaty of Troyes, became a councillor, and in 1564 became earl of Leicester. On the defensive, Cecil restored the balance by introducing Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk, into the council.Cecil was in favor of having Robert Dudley marry Mary Queen of Scots to unite England and Scotland, but the marriage did not happen as Mary married Lord Darnley in 1565.

Mary Stuart’s flight to England in 1568 embarrassed Cecil; although it opened diplomatic opportunities in Scotland, it led to Norfolk’s plan to marry the widowed queen of Scots. Norfolk opposed Cecil over Mary’s fate, over secret aid to the Huguenots, and over policy toward Spain. Resenting the threat of the Duke of Alba’s Spanish army in the Netherlands, Cecil nearly precipitated war in December 1568 by instigating the seizure of ships carrying bullion to Alba, who retaliated by closing Antwerp to English trade. Leicester joined Norfolk, and they prepared to oust Cecil; but they faltered before the Queen’s support for her secretary.

On February 25, 1571 Cecil was raised to the peerage as Baron Burghley of Burghley; the fact that he continued to act as secretary after his elevation illustrates the growing importance of that office, which under his son became a secretaryship of state.Meanwhile, the papal bull of 1570, deposing Elizabeth, confirmed Cecil in his defense of the Elizabethan church. The intrigue called the Ridolfi Plot, a planned Spanish invasion of England to put Mary Stuart on the throne, led to Norfolk’s execution in 1572. Cecil’s rebuff to Spain was underlined by the Treaty of Blois with France in 1572. Neither French influence in the Netherlands nor the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre deterred Cecil from the French alliance; but he also soothed Spain, and the embargo on trade with Antwerp was lifted. In Scotland he settled the regency; but he failed to persuade the Scots to try to depose their queen, who remained a focus of Catholic intrigue in her English prison.

In the 1570s Leicester, supported by Francis Walsingham, who became a secretary in 1573, courted Puritan support; agitated for aid to William of Orange, Protestant leader of the rebels in the Netherlands; and favoured negotiations with France. Cecil restraining the French and trying to avoid open commitment to the rebels, pursued a policy that, in advocating nominal Spanish dominion over the Netherlands that was enjoying its traditional liberties, ignored Philip II’s obvious intentions. Cecil failed to reach a settlement in 1576 and finally joined Leicester in urging Elizabeth to act on behalf of Orange. Rather than fight openly, Elizabeth tried to utilize French influence in the Netherlands by marriage negotiations with the Duke of Anjou.

The assassination of William of Orange in 1584 and the knowledge of a planned French landing at Arundel led Cecil to take measures to protect the Queen’s life and to incline toward war against Spain. His hesitation over the costs of war and trying to explore peace options, created ill will with Leicester. But by 1585 Cecil supported Leicester’s expedition to the Netherlands and Sir Francis Drake’s voyage to the Caribbean. In 1586, on Walsingham’s revelation of the Babington plot Cecil pressed to ensure the trial of Mary Stuart and her execution in 1587. His initiative put him in disgrace with Elizabeth.

Under the growing threat of the Spanish Armada in 1587, Cecil discussed matters with Parma, courted Henry of Navarre and James VI of Scotland, and kept a sharp eye on the Irish and English Catholics. His diplomatic, military, naval, and financial preparations proved just adequate in 1588 to defeat the Armada. These were his strengths that made Cecil such a strong Secretary of State for Elizabeth I. William Cecil died at his home on August 4, 1598, leaving his son Robert to become Elizabeth’s principal advisor.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Cecil,_1st_Baron_Burghley
http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/burghley.htm
https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Cecil-1st-Baron-Burghley
Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I. New York: St. Martins Press, 1992.

Biography: Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester

220px-Robert_Dudley_Leicester(Born June 24, 1532- Died September 4, 1588)
Son of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland and Jane Guildford
Married to Amy Robsart and Lettice Knollys. (He did have a mistress named Douglas Sheffield).
Father of Sir Robert Dudley and Robert Dudley, Lord Denbigh.
Robert Dudley was known as one of Elizabeth I’s favorites at court. He tried to convince Elizabeth for 20 years to marry him, but it failed.

Robert Dudley was born on June 24, 1532 to John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland and his wife Jane Guildford. Robert was the fifth child out of thirteen. Robert was tutored by John Dee, Thomas Wilson, and Roger Ascham and was taught how to be a courtier in the courts of Henry VIII and Edward VI. Robert had a certain knack for foreign languages and writing. In 1549, he participated in ending the Kett’s Rebellion, and this is where it is alleged that he met his first wife Amy Robsart, the daughter and heiress of Sir John Robsart, a gentleman farmer from Norfolk. The couple was married on June 4, 1550 in the presence of King Edward VI at Sheen Palace. It is believed that this marriage was a love match, but the couple depended heavily on the gifts from John Dudley, since he was the de facto ruler of England from 1550 until 1553 because Edward VI was very ill.

On July 6, 1553, King Edward VI died. Edward decided to not listen to his father’s Act of Succession and removed Mary and Elizabeth from the line of succession in order to place his cousin Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Lady Jane Grey was married to John Dudley’s son Guilford Dudley. John Dudley raised an army for Lady Jane Grey to face off against Mary to prevent her from becoming queen, but it failed and Jane’s reign ended on July 19th. Robert Dudley was put in the Tower of London and condemned to death, just like his brothers and his father, who were executed. Robert Dudley was in the Tower the same time that Elizabeth was imprisoned there for her alleged involvement in the Wyatt Rebellion. In February 1554, Guildford Dudley was executed and in the autumn, the surviving brothers, Robert and Ambrose, were released from prison. Later that year, Ambrose and Robert were welcomed to participate at a tournament to celebrate Anglo-Spanish friendship.

In 1557, Robert and Amy were able to allowed to repossess some of their former lands, and in March of the same year Dudley was at Calais where he was chosen to deliver personally to Queen Mary the happy news of Philip’s return to England. Ambrose, Robert, and Henry Dudley, the youngest brother, fought for Philip II at the Battle of St. Quentin in August 1557 where Henry Dudley was killed. During the first parliament of 1558, Mary I restored Robert Dudley and his siblings titles and they were able to return to court. Mary I would die on November 17, 1558.

On November 18, 1558, Robert Dudley was there to witness Elizabeth’s accession. He was at Hatfield to see Elizabeth receive the Great Seal and the same day, he was created Master of the Horse the same day. The Master of the Horse was a very prestigious position that required much personal attendance on the Queen, as well as organizing her public appearances, progresses, and her personal entertainment. This was a title that suited Robert very well and because he did a great job at this position, Elizabeth lavished titles and honors on him. In April 1559, Robert Dudley was made a Knight of the Garter. Elizabeth spent a lot of time with Dudley and the rumors began to spread that the two were lovers. There were even threats on Dudley’s life and rumors that Elizabeth had a child by Dudley.

Elizabeth would not let Dudley leave her side at court. They acted very much like a married couple. However, there was another person in the middle of this relationship between Elizabeth and her favorite and that was Dudley’s wife Amy Robsart. On September 8, 1560, Amy was found at the bottom of a staircase at Cumnor Place near Oxford with her neck broken. Many speculated that Dudley had his wife killed in order to marry the queen or that she committed suicide, but recent research has shown that it was probably an accident.

In 1561, Dudley wanted to get away and seek military adventures abroad, but Elizabeth would not let him leave. In 1562 when Elizabeth fell ill with smallpox, she said that if she was to die, she wanted Dudley to become Protector of the Realm; Elizabeth did recover so Dudley never became the Protector, but he did become a privy councilor. Dudley still wanted to be involved in foreign affairs and he did get his chance, but probably not the way he wanted. In 1563, Elizabeth offered Dudley as a suitor for Mary Queen of Scots. Both Dudley and Mary Queen of Scots were not convinced about Elizabeth’s sincerity so she decided to make Dudley more appealing to Mary. Elizabeth made Dudley the Earl of Leicester in 1564. Dudley soon realized that his chances for marrying Elizabeth were dwindling fast, but he was still hopeful that she would chose to marry him.

In July 1575, Dudley staged an elaborate 19- day festival that was meant to be his last proposal for the queen’s hand, but it failed. It was in 1569 when Dudley began his affair with Douglas Sheffield, who was a young widow from the Howard family. Dudley refused to marry her, but the couple did have a child in 1574 named Robert Dudley, named after his father.

Dudley would marry again to Lettice Knollys. Lettice Knollys was the wife of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, and first cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth on her mother’s side. Leicester had flirted with her in the summer of 1565, causing an outbreak of jealousy in the Queen. After Lord Essex went to Ireland in 1573, they possibly became lovers. In July 1576 Essex returned to Ireland, where he died of dysentery in September.

On September 21, 1578, Dudley secretly married Lettice Knollys. He did not dare to tell the Queen of his marriage; nine months later Dudley’s enemies at court acquainted her with the situation, causing a furious outburst. Dudley’s hope of an heir was fulfilled in 1581 when another Robert Dudley, styled Lord Denbigh, was born.The child died aged three in 1584, leaving his parents devastated. Dudley was a concerned parent to his four stepchildren,and in every respect worked for the advancement of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, whom he regarded as his political heir.

Elizabeth never accepted the marriage. She never could forgive Lettice Knollys and banished her from court. Dudley was able to return to his queen’s side at court. In 1585, Dudley was made commander of the English forces in the Netherlands. The Netherlands were revolting against the rule of Philip II, and the English were helping the Dutch in their campaign. Robert stayed in the Netherlands until 1587, although he did return to England during the Mary Queen of Scots crisis of 1586- 1587, and was present in England when Mary was executed. English involvement in the Netherlands was not particularly successful, and when he did return permanently, he received a lot of criticism for his actions there. Although Elizabeth herself had not always been pleased by what he had done, she would not hear a word said against his efforts there.

In 1588, when the Spanish sent their fleet against England , Dudley was put in charge of the land army, and he organized Elizabeth’s famous visit to Tilbury. However, by now he was not a well man, probably suffering from stomach cancer, and his days were numbered. Following the defeat of the Armada, he travelled to Buxton to try and take the healing waters there, but he never made it. He died at his house in Oxfordshire on September 4, 1588. Elizabeth deeply grieved over the death of one of her favorites at court and a close friend.

Sources:
http://www.elizabethi.org/contents/queensmen/robertdudley.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Dudley,_1st_Earl_of_Leicester

Click to access robert-dudley-earl-of-leicester4.pdf

Biography: Queen Elizabeth I

220px-Elizabeth_I_in_coronation_robes(Born September 7, 1533- Died March 24, 1603)
Daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
Sister to King Edward VI and Queen Mary I
Elizabeth was known as the “Virgin Queen” because she never married and she never had a child. Elizabeth was one of the greatest rulers in English history.

Elizabeth I was born on September 7, 1533 to Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn at Greenwich Palace. At birth, Elizabeth was declared heir presumptive to the throne of England. Her older half-sister, Mary, had lost her position as a legitimate heir when Henry annulled his marriage to Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon, to marry Anne, with the intent to sire a male heir and ensure the Tudor succession. However, things didn’t go as planned. Anne never was able to give birth to the desired son that Henry wanted. Anne would later be accused of adultery and treason. On May 19, 1536, Anne Boleyn was executed; Elizabeth was two years old at the time and she was declared illegitimate, just like her step-sister Mary.

Henry VIII married Jane Seymour shortly after Anne Boleyn’s execution. Jane gave birth to Elizabeth’s step-brother Edward, but died shortly afterward. Elizabeth’s father would marry three more times; Anne of Cleves who was divorced; Katherine Howard who was beheaded; and finally Katherine Parr. During this time, Elizabeth met Catherine “Kat” Ashley who was appointed Elizabeth’s governess in 1537 and remained with Elizabeth until her death in 1565. William Grindal became her tutor in 1544 and after his death in 1548, Roger Ascham became Elizabeth’s tutor. Elizabeth received a very good education and she loved to learn. Elizabeth’s life was somewhat normal at this point, but life was about to change drastically.

Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547, when Elizabeth was 13, leaving the throne to his nine year old son Edward VI. Before Henry VIII died, he reinstated his daughters to the line of succession so after Edward VI, Mary would become queen and then Elizabeth. Shortly after Henry VIII’s death, his last wife Katherine Parr married Thomas Seymour, the brother of Jane Seymour and Edward Seymour, Edward VI’s Lord Protector. Elizabeth moved in with Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour at their home in Chelsea where, it is alleged, Thomas Seymour would act inappropriately towards Elizabeth, including bursting into her bedroom while she was barely dress, slap her on the bottom, and one time, shred Elizabeth’s dress. In May 1548, Elizabeth was dismissed from Katherine’s household; Katherine Parr died from childbirth on September 5, 1548 which allowed Thomas to pursue Elizabeth as his wife, but it failed. Thomas was accused of trying to kidnap Edward VI, charged with treason and executed on March 20, 1549. Elizabeth was interrogated during the investigation into Thomas, but she never admitted anything about the nature of their relationship.

Edward VI would die on July 6, 1553, at the age of 15. Under Henry VIII’s Act of Succession, the crown should have passed onto Mary, however Edward did not like that she was Catholic, so before he died, he issued an act that named his heir as Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey would only be queen for nine days since Mary brought an army to place her on the throne. On August 3, 1553, Mary rode into London with Elizabeth by her side. On the outside, it looked like Mary and Elizabeth had reconciled, however they were pulling farther apart.

Mary and Elizabeth kept butting heads over religion, Mary being Catholic and Elizabeth being Protestant. Mary’s popularity began to wan with her people when she announced in 1554 that she wanted to marry Philip II of Spain, a devout Catholic. That same year in January and February, a man by the name of Thomas Wyatt staged a rebellion to put Elizabeth on the throne instead of Mary, which failed. Wyatt was beheaded and Elizabeth was interrogated. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London on March 18th; she would later be transferred to Woodstock on May 22nd where she spent a year under house arrest in the custody of Sir Henry Bedingfield.

Elizabeth returned to court on April 17, 1555 to help Mary with the final stages of her pregnancy. However, months passed and it turned out that it was a false pregnancy. As Mary fell ill, Philip II started to consult with Elizabeth on how to run the country, and in October 1558, Elizabeth began to formulate her own court. On November 6, Mary recognized Elizabeth as her heir and on November 17, 1558, Mary I died and Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne.

Elizabeth I became Queen of England at the age of 25. She was crowned in an elaborate ceremony on January 15, 1559, which was cold winter day; Elizabeth would get sick shortly after her coronation, but once she recovered, she made William Cecil, later Baron Burghley, her Chief Minister. Elizabeth had two pressing matters to solve when she first became queen, resolving the matters of religious division in England and who she would marry. With the religious division, she sought to strike a balance, so that even though Protestantism became the national religion, those who wanted to hear the Roman Catholic mass were able to do so in private. Elizabeth became the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

The other issue that plagued Elizabeth during her reign was who she was going to marry. There were many candidates, foreign and English suitors, but Elizabeth would not commit herself to one man, instead she decided to remain single and considered herself the mother of the English people. The man who probably had the best chance of marrying Elizabeth was Robert Dudley. Dudley was the brother of Guilford Dudley, the husband of Lady Jane Grey. He was married to Amy Robsart, but she died of a fall in 1560 and Dudley was accused of her murder. He was created the Earl of Leicester in 1564. Dudley remarried in 1578 to one of Elizabeth’s Maid of the Privy Chamber, Lettice Knollys. This made Elizabeth angry and she banished Lettice from court. Dudley would die in 1588, shortly after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Robert Dudley tried for over 20 years to convince Elizabeth to marry him and it resulted in a close friendship, but nothing more.

The other serious contender for the Queen’s hand was Francis, Duke of Anjou, who Elizabeth called her “frog”, heir to the French throne. But again, political considerations made the match ultimately impossible. Other suitors included King Philip II of Spain, King Eric XIV of Sweden, Archduke Charles of Austria, and Henry Duke of Anjou (the duke before Francis). Elizabeth had numerous favorites at her court including Sir Christopher Hatton, Robert Devereux earl of Essex, and Walter Raleigh, just to name a few. The problem was that Elizabeth decided not to marry nor would she declare a successor, even when she contracted smallpox in October 1562 and she thought she might die.

Elizabeth’s refusal to marry or name a successor led to one of the most defining conflicts of Elizabeth’s reign. Catholics viewed Elizabeth as illegitimate and had no right to the throne. To them, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth’s cousin, had a better claim to the throne. Mary was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret. Elizabeth was persuaded to send a force into Scotland to aid the Protestant rebels, and though the campaign was inept, the resulting Treaty of Edinburgh of July 1560 removed the French threat in the north.When Mary returned to Scotland in 1561 a to take up the reins of power, the country had an established Protestant church and was run by a council of Protestant nobles supported by Elizabeth. Mary refused to ratify the treaty which denied Mary the right to succeed to the English throne.

In 1563 Elizabeth proposed her own suitor, Robert Dudley, as a husband for Mary, without asking either of the two people concerned. Both proved unenthusiastic, and in 1565 Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, who carried his own claim to the English throne. The marriage was the first of a series of errors of judgement by Mary that handed the victory to the Scottish Protestants and to Elizabeth. Darnley quickly became unpopular and was murdered in February 1567 by conspirators almost certainly led by James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. On May 15, 1567, Mary married Bothwell, arousing suspicions that she had been in on the murder of Lord Darnley. This lead to Mary’s fall from grace and she was held captive starting in July 1567.

Forced to flee her own country, having abdicated her throne in favour of her infant son, James, Mary landed in England in May 1568, seeking Elizabeth’s help in restoring her to her kingdom. Because the matter of Darnley’s death was unresolved, Elizabeth placed Mary in prison for around 20 years. Of course, this angered the Catholics who saw Mary as the figurehead of their cause, so there were plots and plans to get Mary out of prison and place her on the throne instead of Mary. The largest plot was the Babington Plot of the summer of 1586, which laid out plans for Elizabeth’s execution and Spain’s invasion of England. Since Mary knew of the plans, she was tried and found guilty of treason. Elizabeth was very reluctant to sign the death warrant, but eventually she did. Mary Queen of Scots was executed on February 8, 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle; her son James VI was declared Elizabeth’s heir to the throne.

Another huge challenge for Elizabeth was her relationship with Spain and her former brother-in-law, Philip II. With the discovery of the new world and the age of exploration in full force, piracy was becoming more popular. In 1572, Sir Francis Drake decided to plunder Spanish ships in Central and South America. In 1577, Drake was introduced to Elizabeth and she unofficially encouraged his activities against the Spanish. In December 1577, Drake travelled around the world plundering Spanish ships; he returned to England in September 1580 as a national hero and in April 1581, he was knighted.

By 1588, Elizabeth and Philip were considered enemies. Philip had spoken of invading England and dethroning Elizabeth for years, but the execution of the Queen of Scots gave him an added incentive. In July 1587, Philip received a treaty from the pope that gave his approval on the conquest of England. Now he could claim the English throne for himself and dethrone Elizabeth to restore England to Catholicism. In 1587, Drake was able to lead a successful raid against Cadiz, which delayed the Spanish Armada from invading by a year. In the summer of 1588 he sent his mighty Armada fleet against England. But by superior tactics, ship design, and sheer good fortune, the English defeated them. This was one of Elizabeth’s biggest achievements and made Elizabeth extremely popular in England.

In Ireland, there was a revolt against the English, led by Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone. In spring 1599, Elizabeth sent Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, to put the revolt down. To her frustration,he made little progress, even though he begged to go there, and returned to England in defiance of her orders. He was replaced by Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, who took three years to defeat the rebels. Essex thought that when he returned to England, he would be treated like a hero, but he was treated with contempt. This made Essex upset and in February 1601, the earl tried to raise a rebellion in London. He intended to seize the queen but few rallied to his support, and he was beheaded on February 25, 1601.

After Essex’s death, Elizabeth’s health began to deteriorate. She would die at the age on 69 on March 24, 1603 at Richmond Palace. Elizabeth was interred in Westminster Abbey, in a tomb shared with her half-sister, Mary I.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_I_of_England#Mary,_Queen_of_Scots
http://www.elizabethi.org/contents/biography/
https://www.biography.com/people/queen-elizabeth-i-9286133
Ashley, Michael. A Brief History of British Kings & Queens. Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 2008.

Book Review: “The First Elizabeth” by Carolly Erickson

78c6ce34a9b7447cedba2378b607f3d4The story of Elizabeth I is full of twists and turns. From the moment she was born, she had to fight to survive. Through all that she went through, Elizabeth found the strength and courage to become the legendary queen to help England to enter into a golden age of peace and prosperity. This, however, is just one side of Elizabeth. The other side of Elizabeth’s personality, her anger and her interactions with her councilors, is explored thoroughly in Carolly Erickson’s book “The First Elizabeth”.

Carolly Erickson explains this other side of Elizabeth a bit further:

But if Elizabeth’s political and intellectual skills served her well, though hardly infallibly, in dealing with her councilors she relied on her volatile, imperious temperament and on her inbred capacity for duplicity and deceit to keep them at bay. She was dangerously unpredictable in her moods. She blustered one minute and beguiled the next. Now coaxing and cajoling, now spitting out ringing oaths and insults, she kept her advisers off balance and perpetually astonished them by the range and mutability of her passions. Beyond this, they came to know that, with Elizabeth, nothing was ever what it seemed. Beneath her surface emotions were layer upon calculating layer of secondary reactions, ploys and schemes. She took pleasure in laying traps for her unwary ministers and ensnaring them later with their own words. Even the wittiest of them were sometimes left tongue-tied and flat footed in her presence, while all of them, however fleetingly, were on occasion dazzled by her youthful, radiant femininity and sexual magnetism.(Erickson, 173).

Erickson begins her book with the birth of Elizabeth and her relationship with her father Henry VIII. With the death of the king, Elizabeth had to adapt to the rules of her step brother and sister, Edward VI and Mary. It’s really Mary’s reign where Erickson focuses her attention for the first part of the book. To her, Elizabeth is more timid and scared whereas Mary comes off strong. It’s a different look at these two sisters and their relationship.

With Mary’s death, the twenty-five year old Elizabeth is declared Queen of England. The people of England were relatively hesitant about  this newcomer since they did not know much about her. Elizabeth worked hard to create an image of a good and benevolent queen for her people while hiding her temper that she was notorious for. Those who were closest to Elizabeth would often feel her anger first hand. Erickson also shows how even though there was a facade of peace in England during Elizabeth’s reign, there were those who wanted Elizabeth dead. Elizabeth fought both internal and external enemies in order to survive. It was her strength and her determination that made her a legend.

Erickson’s book may be a biography but it reads like a historical fiction novel. There were times when Erickson would mention famous passages or rumors and I was wishing that she had included the actual text in the book. Another thing that Erickson did that I bothered me a bit was that she made Elizabeth a bit darker than she is normally portrayed. When it came to the death of Mary Queen of Scots, Erickson really did not mention how much of a struggle it was for Elizabeth to sign the death warrant against Mary.

Overall, I think that “The First Elizabeth” by Carolly Erickson was an interesting read. There were some facts and rumors in this book that I was not aware of and her portrayal of Elizabeth was memorable. Elizabeth was prone to angry tirades but ultimately she had her people’s best interest in mind. I am glad that I read Carolly Erickson’s book because it did show a different side of this remarkable queen. I would recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a different perspective on Elizabeth I.

Book Review: “The Path to Somerset” by Janet Wertman

Path-to-Somerset-eBook-Cover-ProofEdward Seymour, the brother of Thomas and Jane Seymour, as well as the uncle of Edward VI. Many people remember him for his role as Lord Protector to his nephew as well as his role in the execution of his brother Thomas. That, however, is only a small snapshot into the life of an interesting man. His life  after his sister Jane died and before he became the 1st Duke of Somerset was one of twists and turns. Nothing was safe for the brother of Henry VIII’s most beloved wife, especially when it came to dealing with his enemy at court, Bishop Stephen Gardiner. This is the time period that Janet Wertman has decided to explore in her latest book, “The Path to Somerset”, the second book in her Seymour saga (The first book of the Seymour saga is called “Jane the Quene”).

I would like to thank Janet Wertman for sending me an advance review copy of “The Path to Somerset”. This is my first time reading a Janet Wertman book and I must say that it was a joy to read. I am familiar with some aspects of the Seymour family, like Jane and Thomas, but Edward Seymour is one of those people who I have wanted to read more about for quite a while. From the books that I have read, Edward seemed like a cruel person when it came to his brother. That is not how he is portrayed in this book. In fact, Edward Seymour is a loving and caring husband who only wants to do what he believes is best for his King, Henry VIII. He tries to navigate the ever changing political scene, the religious dilemma, as well as Henry’s three wives, all while trying to stay alive.

His family and friends were always there to support him, especially his beloved wife Anne Stanhope and his brother Thomas, or “Tom” in this book. Anne has always been one of those women from this period that I never really liked, but in this book, she is very likable. Henry VIII himself is a sick man, full of pain and regrets of his past. He is a loving family man who misses Jane terribly and tries to fill the void in his heart while trying to keep control of his country. Bishop Stephen Gardiner tries to pursue a way to get on the King’s good side using some very underhanded methods.

Janet Wertman is able to bring to life this tumultuous rivalry between Gardiner and Seymour in such a way that you can understand both sides. Two men fighting for the control of  King Henry VIII, and later King Edward VI, but only one man can come out on top. This book was a fantastic read. It was very engaging and intriguing. It gave me a different perspective on Edward Seymour and the people who surrounded him during this time. Janet Wertman does a fantastic job navigating this complex political landscape to show Edward Seymour in a new light. This may be my first time reading a book by Janet Wertman, but this will not be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style and I look forward to reading more books by her. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the Seymour family or the last years of Henry VIII’s life.

If you are interested in this book and want to learn more on how you can get a copy for yourself, you can pre-order a copy of it here.

“The Path of Somerset” by Janet Wertman will be released in August 2018.