Book Review: “Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor: A Historical Journey From Pembroke to Bosworth” by Phil Carradice

43972620In the study of history, we tend to look at the beginning and the end of a battle and why they were fought. We rarely pay attention to the march that led to the battle, but when we do, there is a distinct reason why. One particular case is of Henry Tudor’s march to the Battle of Bosworth Field. It is a tale that started from his birth at Pembroke Castle to being an exile and then from an exile to being King of England. The story of how an exile became a king and founded the infamous Tudor dynasty deserves attention. Phil Carradice believed that it was time for the story of the first Tudor king and his march to destiny to be told in his latest book, “Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor: A Historical Journey From Pembroke to Bosworth”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. This is the second book in the “Following in the Footsteps” series that I have read, so I was cautiously optimistic. I wanted to learn more about Henry Tudor’s march to Bosworth and I certainly did in this book.

Carradice begins his book with a novel-like description of Henry, or “Harri”, and his uncle Jasper Tudor landing in Wales. As a reader, I was a bit confused about the direction that Carradice was taking by using this approach since this is a historical non-fiction book instead of historical fiction, but Carradice was able to tie it in nicely. He then explains, rather briefly, the conflict known as the Wars of the Roses and how England got to the point where it was Henry Tudor versus King Richard III for the throne. It is this information that is crucial for readers to understand Henry’s motive for claiming the throne and how it was an arduous task to achieve. It was in these early chapters that we see how Henry went from a regular boy to an exile who became a thorn in the side of the Yorkist Kings Edward IV and Richard III.

The bulk of Carradice’s book deals with what happens after Henry Tudor and his men land in Wales. He deals with issues of exactly where Henry landed and why the traditional place for the landing does not make a whole lot of sense. Carradice also takes on the legends that surrounded the different locations during the march and compared them to the facts that we do know about the march, primarily from Polydore Vergil. The one problem that I had with this book was that Carradice did not include a map of the march. I was not familiar with the locations, particularly the Welsh locations, so it was difficult to visualize the distances. What I did appreciate was the fact that as the battle approached, Carradice showed how both Henry and Richard III must have been feeling and how their decisions on that fateful day made all the difference.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It may be small, but it is rather mighty with all the information that it contains. Carradice’s writing style makes this book feel like a historical fiction novel with a plethora of information one expects from a historical nonfiction book. If you want a great introduction book to Henry Tudor’s march to Bosworth Field and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, I highly recommend you read, “Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor: A Historical Journey From Pembroke to Bosworth” by Phil Carradice.

Book Review: “Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest” by Sharon Bennett Connolly

51uoBkbUhLL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_There are quite a few events that one can name that radically shaped the course of British history. None more so than the events of 1066, the year that saw Norman, Breton, Flemish, and French forces, led by the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, invaded England in what we know today as the Norman Conquest. Most history books tend to focus on the men who lived before, during, and after the Norman Conquest: Aethelred the Unready, Edward the Confessor, Cnut, Harold II, Harald Hardrada, and of course William the Conqueror just to name a few. What the history books tend to gloss over is the strong women who stood by their husbands, brothers, and sons during this conflict. Who were these women? What were their stories? How did they help their families before, during and after 1066? These questions are answered in Sharon Bennett Connolly’s delightful book, “Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest”.

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing and Sharon Bennett Connolly for sending me a copy of this book. It has been a long time since I personally studied the Norman Conquest, so I found it rather enjoyable to read about a subject that I really don’t know a lot about.

Connolly explains in her introduction why she wrote this particular book about these extraordinary women:

From Emma of Normandy, wife of both King Cnut and Aethelred II, to Saint Margaret, a descendant of Alfred the Great himself, we will trace the fortunes of the women who had a role to play before, during and after the momentous year of 1066. Throughout these tumultuous times, women played a prominent part, in support of their husbands, their sons and of their people, be they English, Norman, Danish or Norwegian. Their contributions were so much more than a supporting role, and it is time that their stories were told, and the influence they had on events, was examined in detail. …My intention is to tell the story of the Norman Conquest, while providing the women with a platform for their stories, from the dawn of the eleventh century to its close. (Connolly, 13-14).

The story of the Norman Conquest does not start or end in 1066; 1066 is the climax of the story, which is why Connolly explores women from before, during and after 1066. Women like Lady Godiva, whose story many people think they know, but the story of her infamous ride is more fictitious than fact. Emma of Normandy, the wife of both Aethelred the Unready and King Cnut,  who used her political influence to protect her sons. Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror, who helped her husband as regent of Normandy while he was in England. St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, who helped reform Scotland and bring it into the Roman Catholic faith. Edith, Gytha and the wives of Harald Hardrada who followed their husbands into the battlefield. 

These are just a handful of the stories Connolly explores in this wonderful book. Connolly has meticulously researched the men and women who were all part of the events that led to and after the Norman Conquest. I took ample amounts of notes on this particular book, which to me was rather enjoyable. Connolly makes the rather daunting subject of the Norman Conquest and makes it so even a novice on the subject can understand it. If you are interested in the Norman Conquest, especially about the women during this time, I highly recommend you read, “Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest” by Sharon Bennett Connolly.

Guest Book Review by Maya Cherny: “Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?” by James Shapiro

65300494_321122425441366_7196908601477169152_nFirst of all, great Shakespeare questioned? How unthinkable, controversial, bizarre…

I had scraps of information on Shakespeare’s authorship question, from “The Everything Shakespeare Book”, that I read years ago and some recently viewed TV programs, such as “Shakespeare Uncovered” and “Shakespeare: The legacy”. Nevertheless, it was appealing enough for the skeptical mind to question – was really William Shakespeare of Stratford the writer behind these great comedies, tragedies, historical plays, and sonnets?

Looking into the materials on authorship, James Shapiro’s book “Contested Will: Who wrote Shakespeare” came up. How exciting! I would finally know who wrote Shakespeare.

James Shapiro is an English and Comparative Literature professor and the book feels quite academic at first, although well structured.

Then book unfolds to a quest through principal candidates to Shakespeare himself. The division of text by a candidate gives the opportunity to read it by paying attention to one particular contestant, allowing to step out and research other materials, before continuing to the next one.

James Shapiro is leading the reader on a path to rediscover Shakespeare. He navigates the wide historical timeframe from 15xx to modern days, up to 2007. On that journey, that is full of caveats, the reader will meet Freud, Mark Twain and number of Shakespeare’s followers and doubters and discover how authorship movement was born and how political inclinations affected it.

And as in life, the journey feels more important than the outcome.

I definitely came up with much more understanding what is behind the authorship question as well as learning along the way some fascinating tidbits (such as why intermissions in theaters were introduced) – an additional benefit to history nerds!

We might never know the truth behind historical events and personages, although research brings us as close as possible to a realistic version.

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to readers interested in Shakespeare’s life and works. Though it’s not a book for a novice – some historical interest in medieval times, Britain’s history or 18-19 century’s literature exposure would help to appreciate this meticulously researched and well-written work.

Note:

Just after completing this review and verifying some of the titles, one more interesting resource came up on Amazon Prime “Shakespeare: The King’s Man”, the series by James Shapiro as well. This is on my watch list now!

About the Guest Author:

Hi

My name is Maya Cherny,

I’m a software engineer and mathematician by profession, ballet dancer at heart and recently (about 2 years ago) discovered my interest in British medieval and Tudor history. Started with Philippa Gregory books and then continued to look for authors of fiction and non-fiction for that period in British and medieval history. I picked up Alison Weir “Innocent Traitor” and was enchanted with her style. This prompted me to dive into Alison Weir’s non-fiction (Princes in the Tower were the first, of course), and now almost through her published books.

My favorite historical personages so far are Elizabeth Woodville (started with Elizabeth I and Elizabeth of York) and Reginald Pole (Richard of York and Richard III were on the list as well 😉.

Expanding my learning resources, I completed courses on FutureLearn “The Tudors” and “Learning Shakespeare”.  Thus – “Contested Will”, the book which I’m posting a review, seemed to be a good addition to the Shakespearean course.

This is an enjoyable learning process, starting at the point “why they all were called the same name and is it possible to distinguish them?” and moving on to talking only about history and looking for the kids’ history books to involve them as well.