Book Review: “Anne Boleyn, An Illustrated Life of Henry VIII’s Queen” by Roland Hui

Anne Boleyn IllustratedThe wives of King Henry VIII have been discussed for centuries in length through novels and nonfiction books. Katherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr are all very popular queens, but there is one that you have all been waiting for, the most famous Tudor queen, Anne Boleyn. Her story has been told so many different ways by historians and historical fiction authors for centuries, and now it is time for another historian to write their spin on her story. In his latest book, “Anne Boleyn, An Illustrated Life of Henry VIII’s Queen,” Roland Hui paints a picture of the tumultuous life, love life, and death of Anne Boleyn.

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I am always looking for a new approach to the lives of the Tudors in books, and when I heard about this title, it caught my eye.

Like so many books about Anne Boleyn, this biography covers Anne’s childhood, her reign and rocky relationship with Henry VIII, her tragic downfall, and her gruesome execution. Hui begins with the origins of the Boleyn family and Anne Boleyn’s childhood. I am glad Hui decided to focus on Anne’s upbringing in the court of Margaret of Austria because this is the aspect that I was always curious about when it came to Anne. We often talk about how the French court shaped Anne’s upbringing, but Hui shows his readers that the Burgundian court was just as transformative and impacted her life.

This book focuses on the relationship between Anne and Henry VIII and how she helped influence his reign, especially regarding religious matters. With the Great Matter and the creation of the Church of England alongside the rise of the English Reformation, we see Anne Boleyn’s opinions on religious matters. Anne had books written by humanists and reformers like Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples, Johannes Brenz, Simon Fish, and William Tyndale. She also surrounded herself with men like Nicholas Bourbon, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Shaxton, William Betts, William Latymer, and John Skip. Finally, Hui discusses how Anne Boleyn fell from her husband’s good favor and was executed.

This is an excellent book to introduce people to the story of Anne Boleyn, as you can easily read it in one sitting. I found some of the material in this book repetitive compared to other books about Anne Boleyn, but Hui does lift it with new facts and the images he includes in this book. Overall, I did enjoy the new information Hui had in his nonfiction book. If you are a fan of Anne Boleyn and want to learn new facts about her life, I suggest you check “Anne Boleyn, An Illustrated Life of Henry VIII’s Queen” by Roland Hui.

Book Review: “Henry VIII and Charles V: Rival Monarchs, Uneasy Allies” by Richard Heath

75418858._SX318_Two kings, two rivals from different countries defined the 16th century. One was the spare to his father’s crown, but when his eldest brother suddenly passed away, he became the next Tudor king. The other was the sole heir to his parent’s large kingdom and would become the Holy Roman Emperor. Wars, the Reformation, and family drama kept these two men, Henry VIII and Charles V, busy and at each other’s throats. They would sometimes join and fight for one another’s causes, showing the importance of international politics. With each new scenario, their relationship would shift, either for the best or the worst. Richard Heath has combined the stories of these two monarchs, these “frenemies,” into one joint biography, “Henry VIII and Charles V: Rival Monarchs, Uneasy Allies.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I have read many books about Henry VIII, but Charles V was a side character in many of these books. When I saw this book, learning more about Charles V intrigued me.

Heath begins his book with Henry VIII, the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He was never destined to become king, but when his eldest brother, Arthur, died unexpectantly, he became the next King of England. In contrast, Charles V was destined to become King of Spain as he was the only son of King Philip I, King of Castile, and Queen Juana of Castile and Aragon. Henry VIII had multiple wives and one legitimate son who would not live long as king. In contrast, Charles V had one wife, Isabella of Portugal, and numerous children, including the next King of Spain, Philip II.

Henry VIII and Charles V had similar ideals and were raised to be devout Christians, even if the way they fought for their faith was different. Charles V’s aunt, Catherine of Aragon, was Henry VIII’s first wife. The two monarchs and their respective countries, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and England, enjoyed close relationships. However, the 16th century was notorious for its ever-shifting political landscape, especially concerning the wars in France, and Italy, that involved King Francis I, the Pope, and Suleiman the Magnificient.

To untangle the messy political dilemma of the 16th century in a dual biography is quite a feat, which Heath does well. I wish he had included a chart to break down the different treaties and wars he chose to highlight in this book because I needed help figuring out which war was which and what each treaty agreed to do. Overall, I think if you want a decent introduction to the life of Charles V and how his relationship with Henry VIII changed over time, I would recommend you read “Henry VIII and Charles V: Rival Monarchs, Uneasy Allies” by Richard Heath.

Book Review: “The Granddaughters of Edward III” by Kathryn Warner

Granddaughters of Edward IIIWhen we think about the legacy of Edward III, we often think about a warrior king who became king after his father, Edward II’s disastrous fall from grace. We know about his sons that he had with his beloved wife, Philippa of Hainault: Edward the Black Prince, Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence, John of Gaunt 1st Duke of Lancaster, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. Famously, we get the 15th-century conflict known as the Wars of the Roses through the descendants of Edward III. However, the male descendants only tell half the story of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault’s legacy in England and throughout Europe. In her latest book, “The Granddaughters of Edward III,” Kathryn Warner examines the lives of Edward III’s female descendants to better appreciate the strength of this group of branches of the Plantagenet family tree.

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I am always looking for more books about the Plantagenets, and I know a bit about Edward III’s sons but not much about his granddaughters.

Warner has chosen to take a joint biography approach to this book by focusing on nine out of eleven of Edward III’s granddaughters. These eleven granddaughters were the daughters of Lionel Antwerp, John of Gaunt, Isabella Woodstock, Edmund of Langley, and Thomas of Woodstock. The eleven granddaughters of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault were: Philippa of Clarence, Philippa of Lancaster, Elizabeth of Lancaster, Marie de Coucy, Philippa de Coucy, Catalina of Lancaster, Constance of York, Joan Beaufort, Anne of Gloucester, Joan of Gloucester, and Isabel of Gloucester.

These women were not just great ladies in England, but in the case of Philippa of Lancaster and Catalina of Lancaster, they were Queens of Portugal and Castile, respectively. Philippa of Lancaster ushered in the Illustrious Generation in the history of the royal family of Portugal. Catalina married her mother’s mortal enemy to create a stronger connection between England and Castile. Back in England, the remaining granddaughters had to deal with rebellions against King Henry IV, resulting in husbands and sons being beheaded. One had married her former brother-in-law when her husband died, and another had an affair with the king’s half-brother, resulting in the birth of an illegitimate daughter. A granddaughter had her marriage annulled when her husband decided to marry a lady-in-waiting. One began her life as an illegitimate child and would end up being the grandmother to two Kings of England.

Warner has been able to take the stories of these eleven women who shared a grandfather and show how their tales transformed England, Castile, and Portugal forever. The amount of love and attention she dedicated to this book is admirable. I appreciate how Warner could give readers who only understood the English side of these tales a better understanding of the political situations in Castile and Portugal. If you want a book with brand new medieval heroines with a connection to the Plantagenet dynasty, I highly recommend you read “The Granddaughters of Edward III” by Kathryn Warner.

Book Review: “The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women” by Amy Licence

16th century womenWhen we think of the phrase “16th-century women,” we often consider those from royal or noble houses throughout Europe. We tend to think of women like the six wives of Henry VIII, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary Queen of Scots, and others associated who made an impact during the Renaissance and the Reformation. However, the 16th century did not stop at the borders of Europe; it extended all over the globe. There are many stories of women from all over the world and from different social classes that can help us understand how the world changed in the 16th century. Amy Licence took this concept and decided to write her latest book about a variety of women from around the world who lived in the 16th century, “The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. When I heard that Licence was writing this book, it intrigued me. I wanted to know more stories from the 16th century from all around the world.

“The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women” is a collection of 100 mini-biographies of women from every walk of life and every corner of the globe. Licence has decided to organize this particular book in chronological order, with the date emphasis on the significant events of their lives. Staying true to her word, she writes about women from different countries, like Japan, Nigeria, Russia, Mexico, Poland, Chile, Morocco, and Burma, to name a few.

What I loved the most about this book is the diversity of figures that Licence chose to include in this journey from 1500 to 1600. They were not just queens, princesses, and noblewomen. Licence included women who would have been seen as outsiders in everyday society, such as prostitutes during the Banquet of Chestnuts, Margaret Drummond, Ellen Sadler, and La Malinche. There were those whose appearance made them outsiders, like Aura Soltana, Elena/Eleno de Cespedes, and Tognina Gonsalvus. Some women stood up for what they believed was right, such as Cecily Bodenham, abbess of Wilton Abbey, Lady Nata of Japan, Margaret Cheney, Sayyida al-Hurra, and Beatriz de Luna.

Some women suffered horrendous tragedies beyond their control, like Suphankanlaya, whose husband was killed in an angry rage, Amy Robsart, and an unknown woman who dealt with a tsunami in Chile. Others were women who had nasty reputations associated with their lives, such as Elizabeth Bathory, Mary Frith, and the Irish pirate Grace O’Malley. We also see female artists, authors, fictional figures, and those who sat for portraits.

Licence has painted a colorful picture of the 16th century with the 100 miniature biographies she chose to include in this book. This book may highlight only a select few stories of the century, but they were new and enthralling tales of women I had never heard of, which broadened my understanding of the era. An informative, refreshing, and unique approach to the 16th century, “The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women” by Amy Licence is a breath of fresh air for anyone who wants to discover new tales from the past.

Book Review: “Educating the Tudors” by Amy McElroy

63112680._SX318_ (1)When we think of the word “education,” images of sitting in school rooms for hours, listening to lectures, and doing endless homework pop into our minds. Our modern education system tends to focus on math, science, language arts, and history as the core subjects we study, with music and physical education as something that we in America call an “elective.” But have you ever wondered what education looked like in the past? How did the Tudors pass on their knowledge to future generations? What subjects did the Tudors consider essential, and how did the amount of education you received change depending on your class? Amy McElroy explores these questions in her book, “Educating the Tudors.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. When I heard about this book, it grabbed my attention because although many books about the Tudors have talked about elements of education, I have yet to see a book about Tudor education. I was curious to see how the rise of humanism would affect Tudor education throughout the 16th- century.

Before we dive into the differences in classes regarding education, McElroy gives her readers a breakdown of the different types of schools and what subjects each school teaches, including the trivium and quadrivium. She then dives into the Tudor monarchs and their education, starting with King Henry VIII, the first monarch in England to receive a humanist education. With royal children and their education, we are introduced to their royal tutors, like Giles Duwes, Bernard Andre, John Palsgrave, Roger Ascham, Desiderius Erasmus, and John Picton.

McElroy takes her readers on an educational journey through the different social classes, like nobility, gentry, and knights, to the common people. As she points out, the lower you get on the social ladder, the less critical education is to have a career. With the introduction of the printing press and the Reformation, the way students were taught and discussed religious issues changed throughout the 16th century. I loved learning about the popular books of the time, the different instruments and dances that were enjoyed, and what games were played during down times.

For McElroy’s first book, I found it very educational, informative, and easy to read. Her passion for humanism and the evolution of Tudor education exudes on each page. I took pages of notes about this book, and I learned so much from this debut. I cannot wait to see what Amy McElroy will write about next. To learn more about how the Tudors approached education and humanism, you should check out “Educating the Tudors” by Amy McElroy.

Book Review: “Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue, and Treason” by Helene Harrison

63193745 (1)The struggle to be a king or queen in any country during Europe’s medieval or early modern era was only the beginning. They are either the next in line to the throne and inherit the crown, or they sometimes fight to the death to wear it. After the king or queen settles into ruling their respective countries, the real challenge emerges as they have to deal with rebellions and those who commit treason against their monarch. Take, for example, what happened during the reign of Elizabeth I. We consider her reign the “Golden Age” in English history. Still, she had to deal with numerous rebellions and conspiracies surrounding her viewpoints on religion and how she dealt with her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. In her first book, “Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue, and Treason,” Helene Harrison takes an in-depth look at each rebellion and how they left a mark on Elizabeth I’s reign.

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. When I heard about this title online, I was intrigued since many of these rebellions have been covered in books about Mary Queen of Scots or biographies about Elizabeth I. Still, this is the first time I have seen a book about Elizabethan conspiracies.

Harrison begins by showing how early Tudor rebellions shaped the reigns of Elizabeth’s family and how the early uprisings affected her time as Queen of England. Beginning with her grandfather, King Henry VII, and the pretenders’ rebellions of Lambert Simnel and Perkins Warbeck, we see how important it was to take action against those who threatened to overthrow the Tudors before they even began their rule in earnest. Under Henry VIII, we see the Pilgrimage of Grace, protesting against Protestantism and for the return of Catholicism after the break from Rome. Elizabeth is considered one of the main actors behind the Wyatt Rebellion of 1554 under her sister Queen Mary I.

These previous events would help shape how Elizabeth I dealt with the five significant rebellions during her reign. These five rebellions were: the Northern Rising, Ridolfi Plot, Throckmorton Plot, Babington Plot, and the Essex Rebellion. Four of the five rebellions had something to do with Mary Queen of Scots and the battle between Protestantism versus Catholicism. In contrast, the Essex Rebellion, the final rebellion Elizabeth I dealt with, was more about a spoiled courtier not getting his way in life and blaming it on Elizabeth.

Harrison does not do a typical overview of each rebellion. Instead, she takes a deep dive into the timeline of each event, who was involved, and how they came crashing down. Each rebellion had a unique signature, from espionage and intrigue to acts of treason and secret codes. Every experience taught Elizabeth a different lesson about what it meant to be a ruler of England. I found this book informative and well-written. I learned new elements of each rebellion, which I thought I knew pretty well. For her first book, Helene Harrison does a great job sharing her points and showing how these rebellions shaped Elizabeth I’s reign. Suppose you want a book that explains the different power struggles Elizabeth I had to deal with during her reign. In that case, I recommend reading “Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue, and Treason” by Helene Harrison.

Book Review: “Power, Treason, and Plot in Tudor England: Margaret Clitherow, an Elizabethan Saint” by Tony Morgan

60530456 (1)The Tudor dynasty was a time of significant political change, but it was also a time of tremendous religious change. Each Tudor monarch had a different view on the divide between Catholics and Protestants. Although we have an idea of what it might have been like during the reign of Mary I, the way Elizabeth I tackled the issue of religion during her reign. One story of how Catholics were treated in the so-called “Golden Age” of Elizabethan England is the story of Margaret Clitherow. She helped hide a couple of Catholic priests and ended up suffering for her actions by being crushed to death. Tony Morgan tells her story and how she became a Catholic martyr in his book, “Power, Treason, and Plot in Tudor England: Margaret Clitherow, an Elizabethan Saint.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Casemate, for sending me a copy of this book. I have heard the name Margaret Clitherow mentioned a few times in books about Elizabeth I, but I found out about her tragic tale.

With each monarch came dramatic changes, and by the time Elizabeth was on the throne, Protestants were safe, and Catholics were on the run. Morgan breaks each chapter into sections: how England was changing, how York was dealing with the changes, and how the changes in York affected Margaret Clitherow and her family. It is a great way to give the audience an understanding of why these changes involved a family of business owners like the Middletons and her husband, John Clitherow, a butcher. Margaret was raised to be a Protestant, but in her heart, she would always be a Catholic recusant.

Margaret Clitherow was no stranger to prison, as she had landed behind bars several times before her last case. In it, she was convicted of hiding a couple of Catholic priests, which was against the act of 1585 known as the “Act Against Jesuits, Seminary Priests and Such Other Like Disobedient Persons.” When brought to court, Margaret refused to plead either guilty or not guilty, creating a dilemma; the court ultimately decided she was guilty and sentenced her to death by being crushed by large rocks. What we know of the trial and execution is due to the book by Father John Mush called “A True Report of the Life and Martyrdom of Mrs. Margaret Clitherow.”

I found some parts of the book a tad dry, but that was because it dealt with religious politics and new laws. When it came to the actual story of Margaret Clitherow and her family drama, Morgan did an excellent job of introducing his audience to a new figure who fought for what she believed was right until the bitter end. If you want a book that teaches you about the Catholic resistance during the Elizabethan era and wants to know about Margaret Clitherow, “Power, Treason, and Plot in Tudor England: Margaret Clitherow, an Elizabethan Saint” by Tony Morgan should be on your list of books to read.

Book Review: “Medieval Royal Mistresses: Mischievous Women who Slept with Kings and Princes” by Julia A. Hickey

61816116When we think about royal relationships from the past, we do not associate them with love; it is more about cementing power. Princes and kings knew how much was at stake, so they tended to have wives for politics and produce legitimate heirs that would inherit their kingdoms. For matters of love and lust, kings and princes would have mistresses, either of noble birth or lower, on the side. These women have been deemed whores and homewreckers but is that a fair assessment of their legacies? Julia A. Hickey takes a closer look at these misunderstood mistresses in her latest book, “Medieval Royal Mistresses: Mischievous Women who Slept with Kings and Princes.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. When I saw this title, it intrigued me, and I was hoping to learn something new.

Hickey covers several hundred years in this book, starting around the year 1000 and ending in 1485. We begin with Queen Emma, Aelfgifu, and the confusion of whether Aelfgifu should be considered a mistress. With these Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings of England, we see many relatively hidden mistresses of William I and Henry I (who had quite a few). We then move to the Plantagenets with Henry II, King John, Edward II, Edward III, and Edward IV. Hickey also pays attention to other affairs in different countries, such as King David of Scotland and the Tour de Neste Affair.

Some of these mistresses would be familiar to readers, such as Isabella of Angouleme, Fair Rosamund, Piers Gaveston, Alice Perrers, Katherine Swynford, Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer, Jane Shore, Eleanor Talbot, and Elizabeth Woodville. Many were new to me, including Princess Nest of Wales, whose abduction started a war, Edith Forne Sigulfson, and Elizabeth Wayte. She even included Eleanor of Aquitaine as one of the mistresses mentioned in this book, which I’m afraid I have to disagree with, as most of this stems from the black legend that has tainted her legacy.

I found the information provided in this book rather intriguing, but my one concern about this book was how it was structured. I wish Hickey had sections marked for each king she mentioned in this book so we could distinguish which mistress was associated with which king or prince.

Overall, I found this book enjoyable and informative. It was a bit repetitive, and there were some arguments that I disagreed with. Still, the fact that Hickey could combine nearly 500 years’ worth of history about relatively hidden royal mistresses is quite admirable. Suppose you want a solid introduction to medieval England’s world of royal mistresses. In that case, I recommend you read “Medieval Royal Mistresses: Mischievous Women who Slept with Kings and Princes” by Julia A. Hickey.

Book Review: “House of Tudor: A Grisly History” by Mickey Mayhew

59607093._SY475_The glitzy, glamorous life of the Tudors portrayed in popular TV shows and novels mask the truth of this infamous dynasty. It is more bloody than what has been described. It is filled with grotesque executions, deadly diseases, bloody battles, and bloody battles. What happened to Richard III’s remains? What was Tudor torture like for those unfortunate victims? What were other devious tales at play in 16th-century Europe? Mickey Mayhew has worked hard to answer these questions by combining 45 of the most gruesome stories from this dynasty into one book, “The House of Tudor: A Grisly History.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Casemate Group, for sending me a copy of this book. I am always looking for a new book about the Tudors, so when I heard about this one, I decided that the perfect time to read it would be in October.

Mayhew begins the grotesque journey into the Tudor dynasty by exploring what happened to the previous king before Henry VII, Richard III, and his remains. We then jump into the reign of King Henry VIII with the tale of Catherine of Aragon and the head of King James IV of Scotland. It is then that Mayhew dives into the tumultuous reign of the big man, his unfortunate wives, and his ministers who got caught in the middle of all that tantalizing Tudor drama.

After the death of King Henry VIII, the political drama got more intense, as did the political and religious motivated executions. From the minute reign of Lady Jane Grey to the “bloody” albeit misnamed reign of Mary I to the colorful reign of Elizabeth I. Sprinkled in the chapters of these English queens were chapters dedicated to Mary Queen of Scots, Catherine de Medici, and the courts of Scotland and France, which were equally brutal as their English counterparts. We have plots plenty with the Babington, Ridolfi, and the smaller-scale Parry plot. Naturally, with schemes came rebellions and political assassinations that dominated 16-century Europe, especially in Tudor England, and numerous deadly diseases.

Mayhew categorized each chapter in chronological order with rather witty titles, which I appreciate in more academic writing. He does not shy away from the gory details, which adds another element to stories that are familiar to those who are Tudor fans. If you want something spooky to read in October or know more about the darker side of Tudor history, I recommend reading “House of Tudor: A Grisly History” by Mickey Mayhew.

Book Review: “The Final Year of Anne Boleyn” by Natalie Grueninger

61817724The world of someone close to a king, especially someone close to King Henry VIII, was full of hazards and great triumphs. All the glist and glamor of the Tudor court could not save them from the rage of the King. This could apply to anyone who fell during the reign of this infamous King, but none more so than his second wife and queen, Anne Boleyn. Much has been written about Anne Boleyn and her dramatic fall from grace, specifically the final month of her life, but what was she doing in her last year alive? Natalie Grueninger hopes to answer this question in her latest book, “The Final Year of Anne Boleyn.”

I want to thank Pen and Sword Books and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book. I am always learning new facts about influential Tudors, like Anne Boleyn, so when I heard about this book, I knew it would be on my to-be-read pile.

We begin our journey to Anne’s demise with the court’s changes in 1535. There is still tons of support for Henry’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and her daughter Mary, even with the new Act of Respecting the Oath to the Succession, which proclaimed Princess Elizabeth as King Henry VIII’s heir, not Mary. Anne interacts with ambassadors from foreign lands, like Charles de Solier from France and Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador.

My favorite part of this book is how much care Grueinger took in telling the story of Anne Boleyn’s final progress with Henry VIII. I have never read an account of this progress in the details Grueinger provided, including where she stayed and who served her at different royal houses. We also see how she dealt with the divide between Catholics and Protestants and how she relaxed in her downtime.

Grueninger examines Anne’s fall from grace and how it took place, starting with Henry’s dramatic fall from his horse and Anne’s tragic miscarriage of a son that would have secured her place on the throne. Here, we see the death of Katherine of Aragon and the rise of Jane Seymour. Emotions are running high, and rumors are flying all over Europe, so Grueninger takes the time to bust a few of these myths. Finally, we look at the show trials and the executions that sealed the fate of Anne Boleyn and the men associated with her.

Natalie Grueninger’s passion for telling the true story of Anne Boleyn is evident on every page of this book with the amount of research she poured into this subject. This book presents Anne Boleyn in a new sympathetic light, which any Tudor fan would appreciate. If you want a beautiful nonfiction book that examines the tragic fall of Anne Boleyn, I highly recommend you read “The Final Year of Anne Boleyn” by Natalie Grueninger.