Book Review: “Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort Tudor Matriarch” by Nicola Tallis

45992763._SY475_The stories of the women of the Wars of the Roses have become very popular in recent years. Tales of Jacquetta Woodville, Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret of Anjou, and Elizabeth of York tend to be favorites of those who read historical fiction. However, there was one woman whose life story is so much better than fiction. She was married 3 or 4 times (depending on if you count her first marriage), had only one beloved son who she helped rise to become King of England, and was considered one of the most powerful women of her time. In the modern era of historical dramas, Margaret Beaufort has been portrayed as malicious and cunning, someone who plotted against the Yorkist cause. With all of these conflicting reports about this one woman, can we ever find out the truth about her life? What kind of person was Margaret Beaufort? Nicola Tallis has taken up the challenge to answer these questions to find the truth about this remarkable woman in her latest biography, “Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort Tudor Matriarch”.

I have been a huge fan of Margaret Beaufort, ever since I first heard about her rather extraordinary life. When I heard that Nicola Tallis was writing a new biography about her, I knew for a fact that I wanted to read it. Like Tallis’ previous biography that I read, this was an absolute joy to read.

From the moment she was born, Margaret was a useful pawn for the marriage market. Her father, John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, was the grandson of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford and was an extremely powerful man. When he died, perhaps by suicide after a failed military campaign, Margaret was his only heiress. She was put on the marriage market at a young age and was perhaps married when she was quite young, but the first marriage she ever acknowledged was to Edmund Tudor, the father of Henry Tudor when she was 12; she would give birth to Henry when she was only 13 and never had any more children due to the trauma that she endured at such a young age.

It was this bond between mother and son that would define Margaret’s life and her motivation to keep on going, even when her life hung in the balance. After Edmund died, she was separated from Henry for years, meaning that if she wanted to protect her son, she would have to marry men of power, like her third husband, Henry Stafford, and her fourth husband, Thomas Stanley. These men would prove to be husbands that Margaret could rely on to make sure that Henry was able to survive during the Wars of the Roses. Margaret got along relatively well with kings like Henry VI and Edward IV, but to say that her relationship with Richard III was disastrous would be an understatement. Tallis takes the time to explore this relationship and to debunk the myth that she had something to do with the Princes in the Tower and their disappearances.
When Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, the Tudor dynasty began and Margaret took up the new role as the King’s Mother. There were still triumphs and heartaches that Margaret had to endure, but we finally were able to see her piety and her desire to help out educational institutions during this last part of her life. By diving into the records, Tallis can reveal the truth about Margaret Beaufort’s life and her relationships with her ever-expanding family.

Tallis makes a triumphant return with this meticulously researched biography about the remarkable Margaret Beaufort. It is engaging and truly one of the best biographies about the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty. This is a must-read for anyone curious about the Wars of the Roses, the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, and this strong mother caught in the middle. I highly recommend “Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort Tudor Matriarch” by Nicola Tallis.

Book Review: “Elizabeth’s Rival” by Nicola Tallis

61RyJJYKwfL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_When we think of Lettice Knollys, we often think about the kinswoman who made Elizabeth I really mad when she married Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s favorite. These two women were once best of friends, but that one event torn then apart forever.  However, there is more to Lettice Knollys than this one event. She was married three times, survived seven different monarchs, and lived well into her nineties. Her story has always been hidden, until now. Lettice Knollys story is finally being told in “Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Life of the Countess of Leicester: The Romance and the Conspiracy that Threatened Queen Elizabeth’s Court” by Nicola Tallis.

Lettice Knollys was born on November 6, 1543 to Sir Francis Knollys and Katherine Carey; her mother was the Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne Boleyn and mistress to Henry VIII. Lettice was one of sixteen children. Her family was solely devoted to their Protestant faith and to their service to the crown. Two of Lettice’s brothers, Robert and William, would later become favorites in Elizabeth’s court. Katherine Carey would be one of the ladies in Elizabeth’s court alongside Katherine Knollys and Lettice; Lettice and Elizabeth became very good companions very quickly. Lettice caught the eye of one Walter Devereux, Viscount Hereford, and sometime between 1560 and 1562, they were married, much to the chagrin of the queen who wanted her ladies to remain single. They would have four children: Dorothy, Penelope, Robert and Walter (named after his father).

Both Sir Francis Knollys and Walter Devereux would travel towards Scotland to deal with rebellion for Elizabeth, but Walter would also travel to Ireland for Elizabeth as well. While Walter was away, it is rumored that Robert Dudley had an affair with Lettice after his wife Amy died in 1560, but in 1574, Robert was having an affair with Douglas Sheffield. When Walter died on September 22, 1576, Lettice was  left to deal with the copious amount of debt her husband left her. It wasn’t until September 21, 1578 when Robert Dudley and Lettice Knollys would marry in secret.

Elizabeth would banish Lettice from court forever, but Lettice’s story does not end there. In fact, this is where her story picks up the pace. After Robert Dudley died on September 4, 1588, he left Lettice with yet again a copious amount of debt to pay off so in July 1589, she married Sir Christopher Blount, thinking that he would help alleviate some of the debt; he did not. On top of all of this, her children were having their own martial difficulties and her son Robert Devereux, the 3rd Earl of Essex, would launch an unsuccessful rebellion against Elizabeth and would be executed February 25, 1601; Sir Christopher Blount would also be executed on March 18, 1601. After Elizabeth I died on March 24, 1603, Lettice thought her problems would be solved after James I cleared all of her debt, but Dudley’s illegitimate son by Douglas Sheffield, Robin Sheffield, would file a suit against her, which Lettice would win. On December 25, 1634, Lettice Knollys would die after living well into her 90’s.

Nicola Tallis does an excellent job in navigating Lettice’s life and times. With the amount of research and care Tallis took in portraying this woman who was once hidden in history behind her husband Robert Dudley and Elizabeth I. Her story is one of survival and strength. With this fabulous book, “Elizabeth’s Rival” by Nicola Tallis, Lettice Knollys will not be hidden in the past anymore.