Book Review: “Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex” by Sarah-Beth Watkins

56283014A man who was young and had charisma would attract the attention of the Virgin Queen herself, yet that attention came with a price. The young man could not do what he desired and was buried in debt. His anger could not be quenched and he would end up rebelling against the very queen who brought him so much glory and honor. This rebellion would lead to his execution. The man’s name was Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and his story is told in Sarah-Beth Watkins’ latest bite-size biography, “Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex”.

I would like to thank Chronos Books for sending me a copy of this book. I had heard that Sarah-Beth Watkins was releasing this book around the same time that Tony Riches released his novel about Robert Devereux, so I thought it might be nice to read about this man through fiction and nonfiction.

The son of Walter Devereux and Lettice Knollys, Robert Devereux was destined to his father’s heir when he passed away. However, when Walter died, he left his young heir a mountain of debt. His mother would remarry, but her choice would cause her to be an enemy of the queen herself. Lettice Knollys married Elizabeth I’s most prized favorite at court, Robert Dudley. The legacies that Robert’s mother and father left him forced the penniless earl to think big and to strive to gain the queen’s favor.

His looks helped win the queen’s favor, but Robert wanted more. He wanted power, money, and military prestige, which was typical of an earl during the Tudor time. However, Robert was pretty terrible at being a military leader. No matter if it was in France, Spain, or Ireland, Devereux managed to fail on his missions and irritating the queen. Watkins included transcripts of poems and letters that Devereux and Elizabeth I exchanged and you can feel the anger and frustration centuries later. Devereux comes off as a spoiled brat who whined when he didn’t get his way and Elizabeth just continued to exasperate him.

Devereux would redeem himself slightly when he uncovered a plot by Elizabeth’s doctor Lopez to assassinate the queen with poison. Yet for the most part, the queen was almost always upset with the young man, which made him act recklessly. Although he did marry the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, he was known to have a few mistresses and illegitimate children on the side. When he was really upset with the queen, he would break into her chamber or he would sulk at home feigning illness until she would beg for him to come back to court. This was his routine until he was pushed over the edge and would stage a rebellion against the woman who raised him so high, ultimately leading to his own demise.

.Robert Devereux was the moody last favorite of Elizabeth I who depended too heavily on her influence to guide his life choices. Watkins does a very good job at portraying Devereux’s numerous attempts to change his fate and how he failed miserably. The length of this biography was reasonable and it did allow readers to get to know the truth about the young man who would be the final favorite. If you want a short biography about the man behind the Essex Rebellion, you should check out, “Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex” by Sarah-Beth Watkins.

Book Review: “Essex: Tudor Rebel (Elizabethan, Book 2) by Tony Riches

Essex Tudor Rebel Tour BannerToday, I am pleased to share my book review of the latest Elizabethan novel by Tony Riches as my contribution to his “Essex: Tudor Rebel” blog tour. Thank you to Tony Riches for sending me a copy of his latest novel, and to The Coffee Pot Book Club for allowing me to take part in this tour. 

Being a favorite of a queen is not all glitter and fame. Take, for example, the men who were considered the favorites of Elizabeth I. They had to deal with a queen whose temper and praise were interchangeable. One of the most famous examples of a favorite enduring the wrath of the queen was Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. A handsome rascal who had a mountain of debt to his name, Essex tries to follow his queen’s orders while staying true to his nature. His road from loyal man to Elizabeth I, his numerous adventures, and his ultimate rebellion are masterfully told in Tony Riches’ latest Elizabethan novel, “Essex: Tudor Rebel”.

I would like to thank Tony Riches for sending me a copy of his latest novel. I enjoyed his first venture into the Elizabethan era about Sir Francis Drake. When I heard about this novel, I was excited to dive in. Obviously, I knew about the Essex Rebellion and Essex’s fall from grace, but I really wanted to know about the man behind it all.

Robert Devereux was the son of Lettice Knollys and Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex. Many recognize Robert’s rather remarkable mother Lettice Knollys as she would gain the ire of Queen Elizabeth when she married the Queen’s favorite, Robert Dudley. Essex’s father Walter would die with a mountain of debt when Essex was a boy. The fact that Essex grew up as a poor Earl does not make him stray away from the lavish lifestyle that he craves. In fact, he adds to his father’s debt with his own, making it nearly impossible to pay off.

What makes him so appealing to Queen Elizabeth I is his youthful bravado. Essex is like a son to Elizabeth I. They were so close that some assumed that they were lovers. Riches puts this myth to rest in this novel. That does not mean that Essex was single like his queen. In fact, he did marry the daughter of the famous spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. His daughter, Frances, is extremely loyal to her children and is not afraid to speak her mind when she believes that Essex is in the wrong. Essex is not exactly the most loyal of husbands as he does have affairs and illegitimate children.

Essex did not shy away from battles. He was known for his ventures in France, Cadiz, and Ireland, but his reputation would be battered like the numerous storms he encountered. He wanted the glory to restore his reputation, but his naivete and anger towards the queen who treated him like a son would lead to his downfall.

There is something magical about a new novel by Tony Riches. He is able to capture the audience’s attention with realistic scenarios, characters that jump from the pages of the past, and dialogue that is entirely believable. Essex may seem like an outlandish character, but his desire to restore his honor and to pay back his debt is understandable. There were moments where I was getting frustrated with Essex because of his poor decision-making skills, but Riches really made me feel sympathetic for this naive young rogue by the end. If you want another brilliant escape into the late Tudor age, I highly recommend you read book two in Tony Riches’ enchanting Elizabethan series, “Essex: Tudor Rebel”.

Essex---Tudor-rebel-Kindle(Blurb)

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.

The truth is far more complex, as each has what the other yearns for. Robert Devereux longs for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amuses the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had, and his vitality makes her feel young.

Robert Devereux’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Buy Links:

This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/bwo16Y

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09246T7ZT
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09246T7ZT
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B09246T7ZT
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B09246T7ZT

 

Tony Riches AuthorAuthor Bio

Tony Riches

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling Tudor historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony’s other published historical fiction novels include: Owen – Book One Of The Tudor Trilogy, Jasper – Book Two Of The Tudor Trilogy, Henry – Book Three Of The Tudor Trilogy, Mary – Tudor Princess, Brandon – Tudor Knight and The Secret Diary Of Eleanor Cobham.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://www.tonyriches.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tonyriches
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tonyriches.author/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tonyriches/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tonyriches.author/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Tony-Riches/e/B006UZWOXA
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5604088.Tony_Riches

Book Review: “Murder in the Cloister” by Tania Bayard

55421664The year is 1399 in Paris and the royal family is concerned about the Priory in Poissy. Something has happened behind the cloistered walls and only one person who is extremely loyal to the king and queen can figure out what is amiss, Christine de Pizan the famous medieval writer. Christine goes to Poissy to act as a copyist for the prioress, but she soon finds herself in the middle of a sinister murder case. A nun has been found dead and it is up to Christine and her allies, plus one frenemy, to figure out who killed the nun while protecting the king’s youngest daughter who calls the priory home. Can Christine figure out who murdered the young nun and make it out of the priory alive? This is the premise of Tania Bayard’s latest installment of her Christine de Pizan murder mystery series, “Murder in the Cloister”.

I would like to thank Net Galley and Severn House Publishers for sending me a copy of this novel. When I was browsing, the cover is what drew my attention. I had not heard of this series or of Tania Bayard before reading this novel. I did not know that this book was part of a series until I started reading it. I have heard about Christine de Pizan and her writing legacy, but I sadly knew nothing about her family life and her connection to King Charles V, King Charles VI, and Queen Isabeau of Bavaria, which would have been useful information to know before reading.

We begin this novel with Christine surrounded by her family and her mother. We find out that Christine is a single mother now as her husband has recently passed away and she is trying to earn money through her writing. As the daughter of Thomas de Pizan, the famous astrologer to King Charles V, she has earned the trust of the royal family. King Charles VI, who is suffering from some sort of mental malady, and his wife Queen Isabeau of Bavaria have asked Christine to go to the Priory in Poissy to copy a manuscript for the prioress and to visit her daughter Marie. She is allowed to bring her son Thomas, but the queen insists on Henri le Picart, a man who Christine despises, to come along and protect her. I found Henri’s character annoying with how he belittles women and their abilities, but he did have some redeeming qualities as the story went along.

I found the actual murder investigation a bit slow for my taste. Bayard tends to focus on the subplot of sorcery a bit too long. I wanted an action-packed adventure full of danger and intrigue, like a novel by CJ Sansom or Toni Mount, but the action fell flat for me. I think Bayard was able to describe the priory and the inner workings very well and the characters were all well written and dynamic. As someone who jumped into this series rather late, it took me a while to figure out the relationship between the characters and what happened in previous cases, which is imperative in solving this particular case.

Overall, I found this medieval murder mystery rather enjoyable. I have not read many medieval novels set in France and I have not read anything about Christine de Pizan, so it was different yet intriguing at the same time. If you want to read this series, I would suggest starting at the very beginning. If you are however familiar with the life of Christine de Pizan and this series, I think you will find, “Murder in the Cloister” by Tania Bayard rather enjoyable and a great medieval escape from reality.

Guest Post: “Between Two Kings: Book One in the Anne Boleyn Alternate History Trilogy” Q & A by Olivia Longueville

Today, I am pleased to welcome Olivia Longueville back to my blog to discuss her latest novel, “Between Two Kings: Book One in the Anne Boleyn Alternative History Trilogy”. 

B2K cover_page_jpgAuthor Q&A

Anne Boleyn has been featured in many books, movies, and television shows.  Her story has been told by writers many times.  How is your historical fiction series different?

In my first book, Between Two Kings, I re-imagined the life of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England. When I think about Anne and her tragic fate, I want to rescue her from execution on trumped-up charges of adultery, high treason, and incest. Every time I visit the Tower of London, I see the place where she was executed, and I imagine that if I had been in the crowd watching her unjust death, I would have shouted, “Stop it! She is innocent!” 

As a result of my fascination with Anne and her tragic life, I decided to write an alternate history novel about her where she does not die on the 19th of May 1536.  Between Two Kings is part one of my exciting series that reimagines Anne Boleyn’s story in a unique way: having narrowly escaped her execution, she becomes the Queen of France.  In a sense, Anne follows in Eleanor of Aquitaine’s footsteps.  

My writing style is characterized by lush romanticism and passionate lyricism with beautiful and compact descriptions. In this series, I’m working to re-create the cultural atmosphere of the Renaissance and Tudor eras (my favorite periods!), giving my readers a strong sense of place to let them make the imaginative leap into these captivating times. 

This series will appeal to you because this story is about a one-of-a-kind medieval woman, who excelled in a man’s world, and whose fate has been transformed into something utterly spectacular.  Over the course of the novel, Anne emerges as a great Renaissance queen, whose indomitable nature refuses to surrender and enables her ascent to power again.  

Perfect for fans of Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory, Judith Arnopp, Laura Andersen, Tony Riches, and other Tudor authors, as well as fans of movies and shows of the Tudors. 

Are there sequels to Between Two Kings? 

In the second book, The Queen’s Revenge, Anne perseveres in her quest for justice and vengeance on the narcissistic, homicidal King Henry.  Her odyssey takes Anne from a world of gloom, across the barren landscape of ruin and the tempestuous waters of peril, to a realm of potential happiness in her marriage to the flamboyant, chivalrous King François.  Meanwhile, politics and disquieting intrigues abound… 

The later sequels explore deadly plots against Queen Anne and King François, including those of Anne’s Catholic enemies. The Valois couple struggle and intrigues against Emperor Charles V and King Henry VIII are woven into their story, for the English monarch will try to exact his own vengeance on his former wife. This culminates in a war of kings with unexpected participants. King Henry’s marriages to his historical wives have their own interpretation. Charles V’s union with Isabella of Portugal might not have an outcome as tragic as the one in history.

Beyond its theme of vengeance, The Queen’s Revenge is an optimistic tale of good triumphing over adversity and of Anne finding new love and building a life in France.  The third book, The Boleyn Queen of France, is the tale of Anne’s life in France after everyone in Europe learns the identity of the mysterious French queen. It also explores how she grows into her new role as a French queen. The political background of the story is organically embedded into the romantic and suspenseful storyline.   

Do any of the books in the series end in cliff-hangers? Are the books stand alone?  

I’ve structured the trilogy so that the books end with exciting, pivotal moments. I created a sense of completion in Between Two Kings. Although The Queen’s Revenge concludes the plotline of Anne’s vengeance, it includes a political cliff-hanger centering on themes that will be developed and resolved in the third book.  

Enough information is provided in every book, so a new reader will not be lost. 

What is important for writers to create a plausible alternate history reality? 

I love history because it shows how people lived in a completely different world. It reveals something new about the world, people, human evolution, traditions, and the way of life in different periods of time.  Nevertheless, I often wish to explore history from new angles and to re-imagine events or fates of my favorite historical figures. What if certain events had never happened or had occurred in a different way? 

It is a challenge to imagine and construct a plausible alternate history reality. You have to take real historical events and people, analyze them meticulously, and think how events could have unfolded differently, and how people would have responded to altered circumstances. If you like alternate history, you will definitely adore my alternate history universe. 

Many are aggrieved with the unjust end of Anne Boleyn’s life. She was most certainly innocent of all the accusations leveled against her, and our hearts weep at the thought of her last days in the Tower of London and how she lost everything, even her life. In my series, I’ve created an alternate universe for Anne that includes the Tudor, Valois, Habsburg, and even Medici storylines, combining them in a plausible way. 

I hope you will join me as we reimagine the fate of one of history’s most intriguing woman. 

Blurb

Anne Boleyn is imprisoned in the Tower of London on false charges of adultery, high treason, and incest on the orders of her husband, King Henry VIII of England. Providence intervenes – she escapes her destined tragedy and leaves England. Unexpectedly, she saves King François I of France, who offers her a foolhardy deal, and Anne secretly marries the French monarch.

With François’ aid, she seeks vengeance against the English king and all those who betrayed her and designed her downfall in England. Henry must face the deadly intrigues of his invisible enemies, while his marital happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour, is lost and a dreadful tragedy also strikes the king. The course of English and French history hangs in the balance.

From the gloomy Tower of London to the opulent courts of England, France, and Italy, brimming with intrigue and danger – Anne Boleyn survives, becoming stronger and wiser, and fights to prove her innocence. Her hatred of Henry is inextricably woven into her existence.

If you are interested in “Between Two Kings”, you can purchase it either on Amazon or Amazon UK by clicking on the following links: 

https://bit.ly/Between2Kings

https://bit.ly/Between2Kings-UK

About the Author- Olivia Longueville

Olivia has always loved literature and fiction, and she is passionate about historical research, genealogy, and the arts.  She has several degrees in finance & general management from London Business School (LBS) and other universities.  At present, she helps her father run the family business.  

During her first trip to France at the age of ten, Olivia had a life-changing epiphany when she visited the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau and toured its library.  This truly transformed her life as she realized her passion for books and writing, foreshadowing her future career as a writer.  In childhood, she began writing stories and poems in different languages.  Loving writing more than anything else in her life, Olivia has resolved to devote her life to creating historical fiction novels.  She has a special interest in the history of France and England.  

Olivia’s social media profiles:

Personal website: http://www.olivialongueville.com/

Project website: http://www.angevinworld.com/

Twitter: @O_Longueville

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OliviaLongueville/

Tumblr: http://www.olivia-longueville.tumblr.com/

Book Review: “1520: The Field of the Cloth of Gold” by Amy Licence

48849570In 1520, two larger than life kings met each other in France for two weeks. This may not sound astounding as many kings left their respected countries to meet other rulers throughout history. It was part of European diplomacy. However, what made this particular period of time extraordinary is the sheer size and the opulence of the event. The King of England, Henry VIII, met the King of France, Francis I, for two weeks of festivities and feasting that we now call The Field of the Cloth of Gold. We often think that this event accomplished nothing because the rivalry between Henry VIII and Francis I continued afterward. Was the purpose of this event to quell the rivalry between the two kings or was there something more behind all the glitz and glam of the Field of the Cloth of Gold? What do the behind the scenes records reveal about this event? Amy Licence explores this event from every angle in her latest book, “1520: The Field of the Cloth of Gold”.

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. When I heard about this book from Amy Licence, I knew that I wanted to read it. Since 2020 marks the 500th anniversary of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, it seemed extremely appropriate to read this book in 2020.

To understand why Henry VIII and Francois I met each other, Licence includes brief biographies of these two dynamic figures and the women that accompanied them to the field in France. Obviously, the information about Henry VIII and his wife Katherine of Aragon was a review for me, but I found the biographies of Francis I and his wife Claude quite fascinating. The relationship between the two kings shaped why this event took place. Licence explains the political negotiations that took place to make such an event happen. She also takes the time to show the role that a third party, Emperor Charles V, took in the timing of the event.

The bulk of this book is the grand event itself. Licence’s attention to detail is meticulous and readers can tell her passion for this subject. What I knew about the Field of the Cloth of Gold before reading this book was an overview of the event, which is why I appreciate the attention to detail in this book. Licence uses letters and descriptions from those who were able to attend this event to show the vast scale of each day. From jousting to feasts, balls, and masques, there was so much symbolism and revelry to be had by all. To pull off a spectacle such as this on both sides, it was the craftsmen, the cooks, and the temporary villages of people who made these two weeks a sensation. Licence shows how much planning and how expensive it was to throw a party of this magnitude and what impact it had on political decisions after the pavilions and temporary palaces went down.

I found myself thoroughly enjoying the intricate details that Licence included with her stylistic yet readable writing style. Licence made her readers feel like they had a front-row seat to the Field of the Cloth of Gold while being academic and very well researched. I found myself imagining the splendor of those two weeks. If you want a tremendous book on this extravaganza of 16th-century European grandeur, I highly recommend you read, “1520: The Field of the Cloth of Gold” by Amy Licence.

Book Review: “The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk” by Kirsten Claiden- Yardley

52957091._SX318_SY475_The stories of the men behind the English crown can be as compelling as the men who wore the crown themselves. They were ruthless, cunning, power-hungry, and for many of them, did not last long. However, there were a select few who proved loyal to the crown and lived long and eventful lives. They are not as well known as their infamous counterparts, yet their stories are just as important to tell. One such man was the grandfather of two of Henry VIII’s wives and the great-grandfather of Elizabeth I. He lived through the reign of six kings and led his men to victory at the Battle of Flodden against King James IV of Scotland towards the end of his life. Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk had his fair shares of highs and lows, including imprisonment, but his story is rarely told. That is until now. Kirsten Claiden-Yardley has taken up the challenge to explore the life of this rather extraordinary man in her book, “The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howards, 2nd Duke of Norfolk”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. I honestly did not know a whole lot about the Howard family, other than Katherine Howard, so this book sounded intriguing to me.

Claiden- Yardley begins her biography by exploring the rise of Thomas Howard’s family and how his father, John Howard, became a powerful man. What was interesting was the Howard connection to the de Mowbrays and how John used these relations to his advantage to help his growing family find favor with the nobility and the monarchs of the time, including Edward IV and Richard III. She explores the relationship between Thomas and Richard III, including the possibility that Thomas had something to do with the Princes in the Tower.

It was at the Battle of Bosworth Field where things get treacherous for the Howard family. Richard III and John Howard were both killed and Thomas Howard was captured, stripped of his titles, and sent to prison to await Henry VII’s decision on how to handle him. After some time, Thomas not only was released from prison, he became a valuable asset for the Tudor dynasty. He would be a diplomat, a chief mourner for Arthur Tudor’s funeral, and escort two princesses to their weddings in France and Scotland. He worked hard to make sure that his family married well and that they were financially stable.

The Battle of Flodden would be Thomas’ defining moment, even though it was towards the end of his life. Claiden-Yardley takes the time to explain why this battle had to be fought and the details of the battle. I found this extremely interesting to see how Thomas led his men into battle and how he helped stopped a Scottish invasion of England at the age of 70.

Claiden-Yardley has done extensive research into the life of Thomas Howard. I did find her writing a bit dry in some places, but overall, she did what she set out to do. She shed some light on a rather remarkable man who was really behind the curtain during the reigns of quite a few English kings. His loyalty to the crown and his family was unwavering. If you want to read a good biography about Thomas Howard and how the Howard family rose to power during the Tudor dynasty, I would recommend you read, “The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk” by Kirsten Claiden-Yardley.

Book Review: “Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI” by Lauren Johnson

50270709._SY475_Medieval kings are often painted as strong, colorful figures in history. They were warriors who fought to protect their families and countries. Often, we tend to think of men like King Henry V and King Edward IV when it comes to the late medieval kings of England. However, there was a man who was sandwiched between these two pillars of strength. He was the son of Henry V, the king who came before Edward IV, and the man who started the conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. Unlike these two men, Henry VI was a pious peacemaker and is often viewed as a mere man in the background who never measured up to the standards his famous father left behind. His story is often incorporated into other biographies of people of his time; Henry VI has not had a solid biography about his life in a long time. That is until now. Lauren Johnson has taken up the challenge of exploring the life of this often-overlooked monarch in her latest biography, “Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI”.

When Lauren Johnson announced she was writing this book, I knew that I wanted to read it. As someone who finds the Wars of the Roses fascinating, I have wanted to read more about the Lancastrian side of the conflict, especially about Henry VI, to understand the conflict completely. This remarkable tome delivered everything that I wanted in a biography about Henry VI.

As the only son of the great warrior king Henry V, Henry VI had enormous shoes to fill, especially when his father died while Henry VI was just a baby. To add to the complicated situation of a baby king in England, with the death of the king of France, Henry VI was also the king of France. Until Henry became of age to rule both countries, he relied on the men around him to rule, while he continued his studies to become a strong ruler. Many books on the Wars of the Roses tend to skip over these informative years of Henry VI’s minority, but by delving deep into this time, Johnson gives the reader an understanding on why he made the decisions that he did later in life and why he was more of a pious scholar who wanted peace rather than a warrior.

Johnson meticulously goes through every decision and every flaw of Henry VI’s rule to show why the Wars of the Roses began and the toll that it took on Henry’s health. Her reassessment of Henry VI’s mental health and its deterioration over the years is eye-opening and gives an entirely new perspective into his reign. His peace-loving nature explains the actions that he took while he was king and also when he was an exile on the run from Edward IV while his wife, Margaret of Anjou was trying to stage a comeback that would fail, resulting in the death of her son and husband. Johnson’s exploration into Henry VI includes the afterlife that presented him as a holy man.

It has been a while since I have read a biography with such vivid descriptions and was so meticulously researched that it leaves me speechless. It was a sheer delight to read this masterpiece. I did not want it to end. I truly felt sympathy for King Henry VI. Lauren Johnson’s magnificent biography, “Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI” is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the Wars of the Roses and the peace-loving king who started it all.

Book Review: “Sir Francis Bryan: Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Ambassador” by Sarah-Beth Watkins

45704941During Henry VIII’s reign, those who were most loyal and the closest to the king did not often last long to enjoy the rewards of his friendship. However, there was one man who stayed in relatively good favor with the king throughout his reign. He was a sailor, a soldier, a diplomat, and acted as an English ambassador mostly in France. He was a cousin to a few of Henry VIII’s wives, a lover of wine, and an infamous womanizer. The name of this rather extraordinary man was Sir Francis Bryan and the story of how he survived the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII is told in Sarah-Beth Watkins’ latest biography, “Sir Francis Bryan: Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Ambassador”.

I would like to thank Sarah-Beth Watkins and Chronos Books for sending me a copy of this book. I have enjoyed Sarah- Beth Watkins’ previous books and this one sounded really interesting to me since I did not know a lot about Sir Francis Bryan before I read this book.

Unlike many of Henry’s closest allies, Sir Francis Bryan was born to help the king. His father, Sir Thomas Bryan of Ashridge, Hertfordshire, was a knight of the body to both King Henry VII and Henry VIII. His mother, Lady Margaret (Bourchier) Bryan, a lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon and the governess to Henry VIII’s children, was related to Elizabeth Howard, which meant that Francis was related to both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. It was these connections that would prove both a blessing and a curse in Bryan’s career.

Bryan’s career was mostly based abroad as an ambassador for Henry VIII. After his service to the king in Scotland, he was transferred to France where he would prove his loyalty to Henry by pushing his ideas on the French king. It was the way he handled certain situations that gained Bryan the nickname, “ the vicar of hell”. Not exactly flattering, but it helped Bryan keep his head when so many of his friends, allies, and family members did not.

Watkins’ biography on Sir Francis Bryan provides a great window into the life of such a colorful character in Henry VIII’s court who doesn’t get a whole lot of attention. But, it is one thing to tell about Bryan’s life and quite another to allow the readers to read transcribed letters that were either addressed to or about Bryan. They provide great insight into the decisions that Bryan made and his feelings about the events that were going on around him, including The Great Matter and the break from Rome.

Like Watkins’ other books, this one acts as a great introduction to the life of Sir Francis Bryan. It was extremely informative and well written for a small book, acting as a stepping stone for those who want to learn more about “the vicar of hell”. A best friend of King Henry VIII and loyal until the end to the Tudors, Sir Francis Bryan lived a remarkable life. “Sir Francis Bryan: Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Ambassador” by Sarah-Beth Watkins is a book that I highly recommend if you are a fan of Sarah-Beth Watkins or if you want to learn more about Sir Francis Bryan and how he survived the tumultuous reign of King Henry VIII.

Movie Review: “The King”

MV5BOGZhMWFhMTAtNGM3Ni00MTdhLTg3NmMtMDViYTc5ODVkZWVlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_There is a new film that has been getting a lot of hype lately and that is based on the story of King Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt. Starring Timothee Chalamet as the main protagonist King Henry V, “The King” on Netflix is the latest historical drama movie that has come out this year. From the trailers and the information that we learned about the film before it was released, I was really intrigued, so I decided to watch it this weekend. Since there were a lot of things I wanted to discuss, I have decided to write a sort of movie review for “The King”.

The film starts with trouble brewing between King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn), the usurper King who is dying, and Henry “Hotspur” Percy. We are introduced to Henry V as a young Prince of Wales who simply wants to cause havoc, drink, and have fun with his friends. When I first saw Timothee Chalamet in this role, I felt like he was a moody teenager who could care less about his country or his father, who he, for some reason, hates. Henry IV decides that Henry, also known as “Hal”, is not good enough to be king, so he is replaced by his younger brother, Thomas of Lancaster. This is so odd because from what we know of this time, Henry IV trusted Henry V to take care of England while he was ill.

The angsty prince “Hal” leaves and decides to hang out with his best friend, Sir John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton), who would become one of his closest allies. Falstaff would be there for Hal after he killed Hotspur at the Battle of Shrewsbury, which in this film turns out to be a fistfight with a knife between the two men, which is won by Henry V naturally. It felt kind of awkward, especially when you notice that Thomas Beaufort (also known as Dorset in the film) is on the sideline supporting Hotspur instead of Henry V. Beaufort was extremely loyal to Henry V throughout his reign. It was here where Henry V got his noticeable scar from an arrow that hit him in the face, but the film really doesn’t show the scar.

After his brother Thomas dies off-screen, Henry V becomes King after his father dies. The coronation scene, albeit short, looked somewhat accurate, which is a plus. As king, Henry is unsure of his abilities and relies on men who he considers his allies. Those who do study this time period know that Henry V was known as a warrior king, yet for some reason, the director of this film wanted to make Henry rather a pacificist. He wants to get along with the French rather than go to war with them. This was the middle of the Hundred Years’ War. England hated France and vice versa. For this young king to want to make peace with the French was unheard of and so out of character for what we know about King Henry V. I really did not agree with this call.

It was not until after there were several attempts on Henry’s life by the French that Henry finally decides to attack France directly. It is here in the battles and sieges that Henry V would gain his warrior king title and I think that the film does a pretty good job showing some of the aspects of the invasion of France. The use of trebuchets for the siege scene was just fun to watch, even though this was just one siege of perhaps dozens that happened during the invasion. While we are in France, we are introduced to Robert Pattinson’s character the Dauphin of France. This might sound controversial, but I wasn’t impressed with his portrayal of the Dauphin. I felt like his accent felt fake, almost like he was mocking the French, and I didn’t see why he needed to have his hair dyed blond. Pattinson’s character was more of a buffoon than a serious adversary. Another thing that irked me was when Henry knelt in front of the Dauphin. Henry is a King. The Dauphin was a French Prince. It seemed really odd to do this since they were adversaries.

To me, the biggest highlight of this film was the actual Battle of Agincourt. The conditions of the field of battle were a muddy mess with the French at an advantage. The English marching in their suits of armor towards their enemy while the archers were in the back, raining arrows down on the French. Seeing Henry and Falstaff fighting in the mud with their men. It felt like it truly honored the battle well. The one issue I had with it was when Henry and Falstaff took off their helmets. I was literally yelling at them to put their helmets back on. It is one thing to see an actor’s face when they are doing a battle scene, but this just seemed utterly ridiculous to me.

A few more side notes that I wanted to include. I think the soundtrack of this film was wonderful and really captured the mood of the film. They used a lot of daggers and battle-axes instead of swords when it came to fighting one on one. The costumes felt appropriate, but the colors of the outfits felt rather mute with greys, blacks, blues, and shades of white. There were points where I thought that Chalamet was wearing a pair of jean like pants and a hoodie under his chain mail, but it might have just been me. I wanted a touch more color. The scenery was fantastic and really gave a medieval feel to the film. Finally, I wanted more Catherine of Valois (Lily-Rose Depp). We see her at the very end of the film, but I wanted more interaction between Catherine and Henry.

Overall, I actually really enjoyed “The King”. It kind of shocked me because I thought that I was going to sit through the movie and nitpick so much that I wouldn’t enjoy the film. Yet I did. It is definitely not historically accurate, but it blends the Shakespearean plays and historical information into something new. If you want a completely accurate film about Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt, this might not be the film for you. However, if you want a different interpretation of Henry V and Agincourt just for fun, “The King” on Netflix is a film that you should check out.

Book Review: “1545: Who Sank The Mary Rose?” by Peter Marsden

44059242On a calm summer day in July of 1545, a battle was being fought in Solent between the Tudor navy and the French navy. Tragedy struck when the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship,  suddenly sank beneath the waves, sending hundreds of men that called the ship home to a watery grave. Many theories on why this particular ship sank have been discussed for centuries, but it was not until the Mary Rose was raised to the surface in 1982 that we start to understand what really happened. Peter Marsden, an expert on the Mary Rose decided that it was finally time to explore the ship thoroughly to explain what or who sank this magnificent ship. All of Marsden’s research is on full display in his remarkable book, “1545: Who Sank The Mary Rose?”

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. Before this book, I knew a little bit about this ship and that it did sink, but I wanted to learn more. This book was jammed packed with incredible details and gave the Mary Rose a new life.

 For those who are not familiar with Peter Marsden, he is a professional archeologist and is a founder of the Council for Nautical Archeology as well as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities. Marsden knew some of the key members of The Mary Rose Trust, whose goal was to bring the Mary Rose to the surface and to tell its story. It is his expertise in nautical archeology that makes Marsden the perfect person to tell the story of this remarkable warship.

 In order to understand how significant the sinking of the Mary Rose was at the time, Marsden begins by telling the story of how the French and English navies met at Solent in July 1545, giving a full account of the battle according to the historical records, both on the English and French sides. Marsden follows the admirals, Claud d’ Annebault for France and Sir George Carew for England, to understand why they made the decisions that they did before, during, and after the battle. 

The bulk of Marsden’s book is going into meticulous details about the Mary Rose itself. This was absolutely fascinating to read since it gives readers a better understanding of what the ship might have looked like in its heyday. The descriptions are paired beautifully well with detailed diagrams and illustrations so that even novices to Tudor shipbuilding, like myself, can get a picture of what the Tudor navy might have looked like. 

Marsden then explores the history of the salvaging of the Mary Rose and how it was not until the 1970s and 1980s when the modern world was able to see the ruins of this once magnificent ship. The modern effort to save and preserve this ship for historical purposes was truly a labor of love for all of those involved. They really took the time and effort that was necessary to protect the ruins of this ship and the remains of those who died tragically when this ship sank centuries ago. As Marsden explains, it is the artifacts and the remains of the men that give hints as to who sank the Mary Rose.

Marsden has written a masterpiece that explores this remarkable vessel. He is scrupulous in the details that will delight experts and novices of nautical archeology alike, yet his writing style makes you feel like you are watching a movie. This book is an absolute triumph and it brings a fresh perspective into the sinking of Henry VIII’s flagship. If you are interested in learning more about the story of this remarkable ship and the Tudor navy, I highly recommend you read Peter Marsden’s book, “1545: Who Sank The Mary Rose?”