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.

Television Series Review: “The Six Wives of King Henry VIII”

81uwnQbeXvL._SY445_Many actors and actresses have portrayed the lives of Henry VIII and his six wives in modern films and dramas. When asking Tudor nerds which Henry VIII stood out the most, the most popular response is Keith Michell in the 1970s BBC series, “The Six Wives of King Henry VIII.” I had not heard about this series until I started “Adventures of a Tudor Nerd.” Many people have wanted me to watch the series solely for the performance of Keith Michell, so when a coworker allowed me to borrow her DVD copy of the series, I finally decided it was time to tackle this legendary series.

For those unfamiliar with the older Tudor dramas like this series, it should be noted that the focus is not on sex or bloody battles but on the relationships between Henry and his six wives. Therefore, the costumes and the scenery take a step back in quality that one would expect when compared with modern dramas. I think the English brides’ outfits are well done, but the native gowns for Katherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves felt a bit off for me.

Keith Michell plays the titular king, but I will discuss his performance later. I want to look at the actresses who played Henry’s six wives. Each episode focuses on each wife’s story, how they became his wife, and how their story ended.

We begin with Katherine of Aragon, played by Annette Crosbie, who was the wife of Prince Arthur, but when he died, Katherine struggled to survive in a foreign land until it was decided that she would marry her former husband’s brother, Henry VIII. The couple seems to be in love until Katherine cannot deliver a son for the king, so he decides it’s time for a divorce, which we call The Great Matter. With Katherine out of royal favor, it is time for Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, played by Dorothy Tutin, to make her appearance. When it comes to Anne Boleyn’s performances, I don’t know if I like Tutin’s portrayal; it just rubbed me the wrong way.

My favorite episode of this series was Jane Seymour, played by Anne Stallybrass, who shows a more complex side to Jane’s story. We see her interacting with the Seymour family and her desire to reunite Henry VIII and his daughter Mary. The way the episode was structured with Jane on her death bed and witnessing flashbacks to her time with Henry VIII, the issue of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and the birth of her beloved son Edward. With Jane’s death, we see the more human side of Henry as he is in deep mourning for his beloved queen.

It would be several years until he married again to Anne of Cleves to secure a German Protestant alliance. Anne of Cleves, played by Elvi Hale, is a young woman of average looks and very little money who wants to learn everything she can about England. I like how we are introduced to Hans Holbein in this episode and to see how Anne felt about her marriage and ultimate divorce from Henry VIII.

With the divorce of Anne of Cleves settled, Henry VIII turned his gaze on the young Catherine Howard, played by Angela Pleasence. Catherine is young, naive, and only concerned about being queen and having men fawn over her. It was interesting to see Catherine Howard as a nursemaid to the King and how angry he was with her uncle after her execution. Finally, we are introduced to Henry’s final wife, the devout reformer Catherine Parr, played by Rosalie Crutchley. We witness the end of the King’s reign and the rise of the Seymour family to help the young king Edward VI.

Of course, these stories could not be told without side characters like Thomas Wolsey, Thomas, and Edward Seymour, King Henry VII, Eustace Chapuys, Jane Boleyn, and Will Somers. I was a little surprised that they included torture scenes for Anne Askew and Mark Smeaton, especially since they did not show the execution scenes for Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Several small Easter eggs for Tudor fans sprinkled in are quite delightful to discover.

Now, it’s time to discuss the big guy, King Henry VIII, played masterfully by Keith Michell. Before watching this drama, I was only familiar with Keith Michell from his performances in Murder She Wrote and the episodes I would watch with my mom. We begin with Henry as a young king enchanted with Katherine of Aragon. They are madly in love, and it is hard to believe they would ever separate, but they eventually do when Anne Boleyn catches his eye.

Throughout this entire series, we see Michell’s acting range through the rapid emotional change of the king. One minute he could be lovey-dovey, the next raging mad, and then bawling his eyes out. What impressed me the most about Michell’s performance was how we saw Henry VIII’s size and shape change in each episode. As Tudor fans, we have screamed at the TV when we see modern adaptations of Henry VIII that do not meet our standards for what older Henry should look like. Michell exceeds all expectations and gives his audience one of the most believable King Henry VIII performances in modern history.

Overall, I found this a decent show where the political and romantic drama of the reign of King Henry VIII shines through the screen. The queens and the counselors did take a back seat to the titular king, but I did not mind that. If you want to watch a legendary series about the reign of King Henry VIII that does not have the sex and scandals of a modern drama, I highly recommend you watch the BBC series, “The Six Wives of King Henry VIII,” starring Keith Michell.

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Book Review: “Falling Pomegranate Seeds: All Manner of Things” by Wendy J. Dunn

48815162._SY475_A journey to a foreign land for a long-promised marriage that will unite the royal families of Spain and England. Two friends caught in the middle far away from their beloved Spain. One is Princess Katherine of Aragon, who will marry Prince Arthur. The other is her cousin and close confidant, Maria de Salinas. Their journey like their friendship will last for decades, full of loyalty and love. Katherine’s story has been told many times in different ways, while Maria de Salinas has remained faithfully in the shadows. That is until now. In Wendy J. Dunn’s continuation of her Katherine of Aragon story, “Falling Pomegranate Seeds: All Manner of Things”, Maria de Salinas is the protagonist telling the tragic tale of love and heartache from her perspective.

I would like to thank Wendy J. Dunn for sending me a copy of her latest novel. I have heard wonderful things about Wendy’s novels from my friends. When I heard that Dunn was writing a novel about Maria de Salinas, I was intrigued by the concept. I only knew about Maria de Salinas through brief mentions of her in biographies and other novels about Katherine of Aragon, so I was excited to read her story.

Dunn’s novel begins as a letter that Maria de Salinas is writing to her only daughter. It is the story of her life with Katherine with the intention that her daughter understands the tough decisions that she made throughout her life and how unbelievably loyal she was to her queen, Katherine of Aragon. By having Maria recalling the story, Dunn adds another layer of depth to Katherine’s story. Maria knew Katherine her entire life so she knew how Katherine was feeling even when Katherine hid her emotions from the rest of the world. Her initial reactions to her new home, England. The love she had for Arthur and what happened on their wedding night. Katherine’s opinions of her father and her father-in-law. And of course, her tumultuous relationship with her second husband, Henry VIII.

Maria’s personal story is full of love and tragedy as well. Her love story with the man of her choice, who will be her husband, is gut-wrenching yet so beautiful. You will root for Maria to get her happily ever after. There were so many points in this book that I was on the brink of tears. I did not want this novel to end. Dunn created a protagonist with her own strength and a story that is nothing short of remarkable. The vivid descriptions that are in this work of art create a realistic Tudor world that you never want to leave.

This novel was a masterpiece in Tudor historical fiction. Maria’s story and how she helped Katherine of Aragon is riveting you will find yourself wanting to know more about Maria de Salinas. I wish we did have more of the relationship between Maria and her daughter, but that is because I wanted more of the tale. I have read many historical fiction novels about the Tudors and their world and I have to say this novel is one of the pinnacle Tudor novels that I have ever read. This is the first time that I have read a novel by Wendy Dunn, but now I want to read her other works. If you want a sensational novel centered around the astounding friendship of Maria de Salinas and Katherine of Aragon, “Falling Pomegranate Seeds: All Manner of Things” by Wendy J. Dunn is a must-read for any Tudor nerd.

Book Review: “Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was” by Sean Cunningham

28999810A new dynasty is born out of war and bloodshed. Hope is restored to the land as the remains of the Houses of York and Lancaster are united when Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York. It was not until the birth of their eldest child and heir, Prince Arthur, that the union was truly complete. Arthur was the hope for the nation, but when he tragically died shortly after marrying Catherine of Aragon, he was replaced by his younger brother who would become King Henry VIII. Arthur’s life was indeed very short, but his legacy and untimely death altered the course of history forever. Arthur tends to be a footnote in history, between Henry VII’s and Henry VIII’s reigns, but what was this young prince like? Why did his death leave such a large hole in the plans for the future of the Tudor dynasty? What was his relationship like with his family and those closest to the prince? These questions and more are explored in Dr. Sean Cunningham’s brilliant biography, “Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was”.

I had heard about this book from my friends in the Tudor community for a while now and it sounded so intriguing. In my studies of the Tudor dynasty, I have often treated Prince Arthur as a footnote, but I have felt that there was more to his story than his birth, his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and his death.

To understand the significance of Prince Arthur and his birth, Cunningham briefly explains how the Tudor dynasty began at the end of the Wars of the Roses. To secure the dynasty, the birth of a male heir was essential. His name itself was seen as a way to connect the Tudors with legendary kings of England’s past. The prince’s baptism was as glamorous as his parents’ coronations and wedding, emphasizing the role that his parents expected their son would play as he grew up.

The bulk of this biography is focused on the education and the political moves that Arthur made while he was Prince of Wales. It may have seemed a bit harsh for his parents to send him away at a young age, but as Cunningham explains thoroughly, this was part of a long-term strategy for Henry VII. Although we don’t know much about Arthur’s character, the way he was raised and how he held control in his northern realm showed us a glimmer of what his reign might have been like if he did live long enough to be the second Tudor king.

It was his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who would be Henry VIII’s first wife, that was the pinnacle of his young life. Normally, the wedding night would not have been a point of intense focus. However, since it was critical to Henry VIII’s divorce case against Catherine, Cunningham explored as much of that night and what we know as possible. Finally, Cunningham tackles the confusing issue of what killed the prince.

Overall I found this book very enlightening and extremely well researched. Prince Arthur was the most prominent Tudor child born to Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, yet he has never been a focal point for Tudor historians. Cunningham has taken every minute detail of his short life to craft this insightful biography of a prince whose death shaped the course of history forever. This is a masterpiece of a biography. If you would like to learn more about the life of the firstborn Tudor prince, I highly recommend you read, “Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was” by Sean Cunningham.