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 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: “The Private Life of Thomas Cromwell” by Caroline Angus

cover260114-mediumWhen we think about the men who surrounded King Henry VIII, a few names come to mind. Cranmer, More, Wolsey, and Wroithesley are just a few, but the man who is synonymous with the infamous king’s reign is Thomas Cromwell. The man who helped Henry get his divorce from Katherine of Aragon saw both the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn. He also assisted in the dissolution of the monasteries and brought reform to England with the break from the Roman Catholic Church. To modern audiences, it feels as if we know everything that there was to know about Thomas Cromwell’s public life, but what was he like in his private life when his friends and family surrounded him? Caroline Angus gives her readers an insight into Cromwell’s personal life in her latest book, “The Private Life of Thomas Cromwell.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I love finding new perspectives about historical figures, like Thomas Cromwell, so when I heard that Caroline Angus was writing this book, I was delighted. I wanted to see what new information this book could provide about Thomas Cromwell’s life.

Angus begins her new nonfiction book on Cromwell by showing the origins of the Cromwell family and how Thomas went from the son of a blacksmith to his journeys in Italy, especially in Florence. It is impressive to see how Thomas’ influential friends from Florence would help shape how he conducted business later on in life as one of King Henry VIII’s top counselors. Thomas must have been a polymath to achieve the astronomical rise to power that we see him go through that landed him in the workforce of Thomas Wolsey.

Under Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell’s private and public life became insanely busy as he gained the king’s respect. He would be the principal architect for the dissolution of monasteries and helped Henry VIII gain his divorce from Katherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. As Cromwell became a player in Tudor politics, he married Elizabeth Williams and had several children. As Cromwell’s family grew, so did Thomas’ roles at the court of Henry VIII. He was the king’s number one advisor and was asked to perform the most difficult tasks, like bringing the downfall of Anne Boleyn and breaking England from the Roman Catholic Church. In a way, Thomas Cromwell was the Tudor equivalent of Alexander Hamilton.

I enjoyed this book because we see Cromwell as a human being, not just some lofty historical figure. He was a man who climbed the social ladder with his talents and his connections throughout England and Europe. With every title and every bill passed, Cromwell gained new enemies, who would lead to Thomas Cromwell’s downfall after the disastrous marriage between Henry VIII and Anna of Cleves. His fall was so dramatically quick that even Henry VIII regretted killing Thomas Cromwell.

Angus’s passion for comprehensively telling Cromwell’s story for scholars and students of Tudor history shines through this book. Her research is meticulous as she balances Thomas’ public life and private life to tell the whole story of the legendary man. If you are interested in understanding the life of Henry VIII’s most faithful servant and trusted advisor, I recommend reading “The Private Life of Thomas Cromwell” by Caroline Angus.

Book Review: “Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Power Behind an Artistic Revolution” by Mary Hollingsworth

51601860The 15th and 16th centuries were full of dynamic political and religious reforms, but they were also known for cultural changes throughout Europe. The medieval foundations started to crumble, and the early modern age emerged. One of the centers of change was Italy, a series of states with their rulers vying for power and prestige. These rulers would help finance masterpieces in art, literature, and architecture, but it was their rivals that threatened to tear the Renaissance society apart. In “Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Power Behind an Artistic Revolution,” Mary Hollingsworth explores the lives of the men and women who helped shape the Renaissance.

I want to thank Pegasus Books for sending me a copy of this book. This title was intriguing to me, and I wanted to learn more about Italian history. The Italian Renaissance has been an area in history that I have been interested in studying more, but I was unsure where to begin.

Hollingsworth takes the tales of some of the most famous families in Italy to tell the story of the Renaissance. Each chapter focuses on two or three dynamic figures that shaped the era. Men like Cosimo de’ Medici, Alfonso of Aragon, Francesco Sforza, Leonello d’Este, Ferrante I of Naples, and Doge Andrea Gritti knew how to change the political landscape of Italy while acting as patrons for the artists that would define this era. The artists that they would employ were masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian. We also saw powerful women like Lucrezia Borgia and Isabella d’Este, who impacted the Renaissance.

Although Hollingsworth mentions the works that the princes helped fund and did include stunning images of the masterpieces of art and architecture, the bulk of this book is looking at the drama behind the art. We see a complex political landscape of lords fighting each other, family members, and even papal authority for land and prestige. Things were bound to be complicated with famous families like the Estes, the Medicis, the Sforzas, and the Borgias. Still, it created a beautiful mosaic of different influences of colorful figures.

One thing that I wish Hollingsworth would have included would be family trees of the prominent families. As someone who is not that familiar with the significant Italian families and the individual states, I think it would have helped those who are not that familiar with Italian history.

Overall, I found this book an enjoyable and fascinating read. I think it provides gorgeous images of new aspects of the Renaissance with thrilling stories of love, jealously, and the desire for power. Suppose you want a great introduction to the Italian Renaissance and those who funded these masterpieces. In that case, you should check out “Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Power Behind an Artistic Revolution” by Mary Hollingsworth.

Book Review: “Rizzio” by Denise Mina

57147033 (1)David Rizzio was one of Mary, Queen of Scots’ favorites at court and the private secretary to the queen. Being a royal favorite would not have been seen as a grave offense in any other country during this time, yet this is Scotland in the 16th century. Scotland was filled with deadly feuds between lords fighting for control of the crown, which would lead to numerous prominent men being murdered, including Rizzio. On March 9, 1566, David Rizzio was murdered in front of Mary, Queen of Scots, while she was several months pregnant. The tale of the grotesque crime and those who witnessed the events of that night are told in Denis Mina’s latest gripping novella, “Rizzio.”

I want to thank Pegasus Books for sending me a copy of this novella. When I read the description of this book and how dynamic the cover design was, I knew that I wanted to read this title. I was intrigued to see how Denise Mina would write the tale of Rizzio for a modern audience.

We begin with a tennis match between David Rizzio and Lord Darnley, Mary’s angsty and angry husband. Darnley wants to be King of Scotland and is tired of Rizzio getting in the way of his plans and that his wife favors this Italian nobody. He wants Rizzio to die, but not by his hands. Darnley has enlisted a ragtag group of nobles to help kill Rizzio and make way for Darnley to become the King.

However, things don’t go as smoothly as Darnley plans. Mary hosts a dinner party for a small group of friends at Holyrood Palace before she goes into confinement to give birth to her son and heir, James VI. A delightful party is disrupted by Darnley, Lord Ruthven, and their men, including one Henry Yair, who have come to kill Rizzio. Mary tries in vain to protect her Italian favorite, but she cannot save her friend in the end.

The tension and the drama that Mina was able to create in such a short amount of time were masterfully done. She was able to show how complex Scottish politics and the battle between Catholicism and reform so that readers who are not familiar with this time could understand the friction between the factions. Even though I knew the history behind this event, how Mina described it sent shivers down my spine. The one issue that I had with this novella was the ending, and it felt a bit flat and rushed to me. I wish she would have tied in the death of Mary and Darnley a bit better into the murder of Rizzio.

I think for a historical fiction novella, Mina does an excellent job of grabbing the reader’s attention and transporting them to that horrible night. This story may be short, but the emotional impact and details will stay with readers even after reading it. If you love reading about Mary, Queen of Scots, and Stuart Scotland during the 16th century, you will find “Rizzio” by Denise Mina thrilling.

Book Review: “Tudor Victims of the Reformation” by Lynda Telford

31617175._SX318_The reigns of the Tudor monarchs were full of change, not only in court and in culture, but also when it came to religion. None more so than in the reign of King Henry VIII, especially during the incident known as “The Great Matter”, when the king wanted a divorce from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Many people were swept into the chaos of this time, but there are two who were infamous during this time; Thomas Wolsey and Anne Boleyn. These two were adversaries, vying for the attention of the king. They both experienced extreme highs and tragic lows as they navigated the change in England that would be the start of the Reformation. Lynda Telford explores the lives of Thomas Wolsey and Anne Boleyn, as well as the lives of other people who were caught displeasing King Henry VIII during this tumultuous time in her book, “Tudor Victims of the Reformation”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book to read and review. The title had me intrigued and I really wanted to dive into this interesting book.

Before I started reading this book, I thought that this book was going to be about the entire Tudor dynasty and the stories of the victims of the Reformation, from King Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth I. I also thought that this book might touch on the victims of the counter-Reformation during the reign of Queen Mary I. That is not what this book is about. Instead, Telford decided to focus on the lives of two main individuals, Thomas Wolsey and Anne Boleyn, ending in 1536. The title seemed rather misleading to me since the main focus of this book is “The Great Matter” rather than the Reformation, which was getting its start at this time, but really didn’t go into full swing in England until later in the Tudor dynasty.

Telford tells the story of Thomas Wolsey and Anne Boleyn and how they rose to be by King Henry VIII’s side. Wolsey was a brilliant scholar who rose to prominence in the Catholic church and in the court of the King. He became an ally and advisor to Henry VIII during the early years of his reign. Anne Boleyn was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn 1st Earl of Wiltshire and an English diplomat. She was able to capture the heart of the king, even though he was still married to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Henry decided that after decades of being married to Katherine of Aragon that she would never give him the son that he wanted, so it was only sensible to divorce her and marry Anne Boleyn. This decision would radically change England and the lives of so many forever, including Wolsey and Anne Boleyn.

As someone who knows the story of “The Great Matter”, the rise and fall of Thomas Wolsey and Anne Boleyn, and how these decisions affected England as a whole, this book felt like a review for me. There were points when I did feel like this book was a tad dry, but Telford did add more information from other European sources that helped give a new perspective about this time. Personally, this book felt like a review for me, but for someone who is being introduced to this topic for the first time, this book is a good place to start. If you have just started studying the Tudors and the event known as “The Great Matter”, I would recommend you read Lynda Telford’s book, “Tudor Victims of the Reformation”.

Book Review: “Six Tudor Queens- Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen” by Alison Weir

9781472227713Henry VIII’s wives were some of the most fascinating women of the Tudor Dynasty.  Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, the mother of Mary I, and the first wife Henry divorced. Anne Boleyn, the mother of Elizabeth I and the first English queen to be executed. Anne of Cleves, the wife Henry did not like and divorced. Katherine Howard, the second wife Henry executed, and Katherine Parr, the wife who outlived Henry. All of these women were unique, however, there was only one who gave Henry the son that he so desperately desired. Her name was Jane Seymour. Her death was well documented since she died shortly after giving birth to Edward, yet we really don’t know who she was or what her life was like. Alison Weir decides to explore Jane’s life in her third book of the Six Tudor Queens series, “Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen”.

So what makes Jane such a mystery? In her author’s note, Alison Weir explains what we know about Jane and why she was a challenge to write about:

Jane Seymour’s career spanned three of the most tumultuous years in England’s history. She was at the centre of the turbulent and dramatic events that marked the Reformation, a witness to the fall of Anne Boleyn, and an adherent of the of traditional religion at a time when seismic changes were taking place in the English Church. Had she left behind letters giving insights into her views on these events, we would know much more about the role she played in them- but she didn’t and therefore she remains an enigma. Historians endlessly debate whether or not Jane was the demure and virtuous willing instrument of an ambitious family and an ardent and powerful king; or whether she was as ambitious as her relations and played a proactive part in bringing down the Queen she served. It is impossible, given the paucity of the evidence, to reach a conclusion. And yet a novelist approaching Jane Seymour must opt for one view or the other. For me, this posed a challenge, which set me poring once more over the historical evidence on which this book is closely based, looking for clues as to how to portray her. (Weir, 503).

Weir introduces us to Jane and the Seymour family on the wedding day of her eldest brother Edward to Catherine Fillol. This marriage was doomed to fail as there was a huge scandal that rocked the Seymour family to its core. During this time, at least according to Weir’s novel, Jane was contemplating becoming a nun, but alas, it was not the lifestyle for her. Jane would eventually move to the court of Katherine of Aragon to work for the Queen. Jane is content with her new life inside the royal court, but that all changes when Anne Boleyn starts to have a relationship with Henry VIII.

Jane was not the biggest fan of Anne Boleyn and she stayed with Katherine of Aragon for as long as she could. Eventually, Jane made her way into the court of Anne Boleyn and fell in love with Henry VIII. Jane sees a softer side of Henry, a side that is not often portrayed. As Anne fell from favor, Jane rose to become the next wife and queen of Henry VIII. It is Anne’s death that haunts Jane as she questions whether she did the right thing falling in love for the King. Jane is a strong and loving character who cares about her family, Henry and the Catholic Church. She works hard to bring Mary, Katherine of Aragon’s daughter, back to her father’s good side, as well as restoring the monasteries that Henry was destroying. Jane’s love and her courage to do what was right for her country and those who were close to her defined her life.

This third book in the “Six Tudor Queens” series is an absolute delight to read. It continues the trend that the first two books set, one of opening the readers’ eyes to another side of Henry VIII’s queens. Alison Weir’s Jane Seymour is full of strength and love for others that you can’t help but like her character. Weir combines events that happened with how Jane might have reacted to create a strong story full of love and heartache. Her life and her beloved son changed England forever. If you want a fascinating and complex story of Jane Seymour’s short life, I highly recommend you read the third book of the “Six Tudor Queens” series by Alison Weir, “Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen.” It is an absolutely eye-opening novel.