Book Review: “The Anne Boleyn Collection” by Claire Ridgway

13488604Have you ever watched a historical drama/ movie or read a historical fiction novel and started to wonder if the “facts” they a portraying are true? You start researching the history of these people and the times that they lived in and it soon becomes a passion. You have your favorite figures to study and you want to defend them when those online decide to criticize them in discussion boards. For some of us, that is as far as it goes, but some choose to make blogs to explore these topics even further. This scenario is similar to what happened with Claire Ridgway, the creator of the popular blog The Anne Boleyn Files; however, her inspiration came from a dream. To share her passion for all things Anne Boleyn, Ridgway has decided to compile some of the most popular articles from her blog into her debut book, “The Anne Boleyn Collection”.

As a fellow history blogger, I share Ridgway’s passion for finding the truth about the past through personal research and to share that information with other Tudor fans through articles. I admire her for finding a subject that she is so passionate about that she decided to write enough articles to create an entire book about Anne Boleyn and the topics around her. There were several articles in this book that I found fascinating; like the missing Boleyn children, the men and women of Anne’s household, the discussion of the Boleyns in popular historical dramas, and the discovery of Anne’s remains, which I think shows Ridgway’s desire to show a different side to the Boleyn story to those who study the Tudors.

Ridgway’s book is a series of articles that were well received on her blog. They are not in chronological order, but there are some mini-series of articles that discuss certain topics at length. Some of the articles do discuss Anne Boleyn and how she is portrayed in The Tudors and The Other Boleyn Girl, which are popular but they tend to show Anne and her family in a rather negative light. Ridgway has very strong views on these programs and makes them very apparent.

The one major issue that I had with this book was the fact that she reused articles that were on her blog and just put them in an order that made sense. To me, there is a difference in style between writing a blog article and writing a book. You can still have the casual writing style that makes you feel like you are having a conversation with the reader, but expand your thoughts that you had in your articles while using more reliable sources. Since these articles are the same ones that were on the Anne Boleyn Files blog, it feels a bit redundant to have them in this book and on the blog.

Overall, I think that this was a decent debut book for Claire Ridgway. I thought she made some good points in her articles and her passion is evident in her writing. It does feel like having a conversation with Ridgway herself, which makes it easy for Tudor novices to understand. I did wish she expanded on some points and used more credible sources, but I thought it was a good book. If you are a fan of the Anne Boleyn Files and discussing hot topics about Anne Boleyn, I would recommend you check out, “The Anne Boleyn Collection” by Claire Ridgway.

Book Review: “The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty” by G.J. Meyer

8800906The Tudor dynasty and the enigmatic figures who made this time period so fascinating have been hotly discussed for centuries. Henry Tudor, who became King Henry VII after defeating  King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. King Henry VIII, the second son whose numerous wives and his split from the Catholic Church made his name infamous in history. King Edward VI, Henry VIII’s beloved son who died before he really could accomplish the reformation that he had planned for England. Queen Mary I, who was the first Queen of England to rule in her own right and wanted to restore the Catholic Church. Finally, Queen Elizabeth I, who never married and led England to a “Golden Age”. Many historians have viewed the Tudor dynasty as a time of great change and England was in a good place. However, G.J. Meyer paints a darker picture of the era in his book, “The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty”.

Unlike many of the books on my blog, I did read this book before when I was in college. It was the only Tudor book that I read as an assigned book and I do have fond memories reading it, so I decided that I would go back and reread it years later. 

I will say that the title “Complete Story” is a little bit misleading. Meyer tends to focus on Henry VIII (over 300 pages on Henry VIII and the Great Matter) and his children, but he briefly mentions Henry VII and Lady Jane Grey. I feel like if Meyer wanted to have a “complete story” about the Tudors, it should have included these two figures a bit more. I did want more about Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. They were wives of Henry VIII, but they felt like afterthoughts in Meyer’s book. I also wanted more about Elizabeth I’s reign, since she did reign for a long time and without a husband, but her section in this book felt rushed. 

 When Meyer does talk about Henry VIII and the other Tudors, he seems to use the same negative stereotypes that have been used in the past, (Henry VII was a miser, Henry VIII was a monster, Edward was a sick child, Mary as “Bloody Mary”, and Elizabeth was concerned about keeping her youth and her ruthlessness). Of course, this book was written in 2011 and many of these myths have been proven untrue by more modern books about the Tudors. 

This book does not revolve around the popular history tales of the Tudors. Instead, Meyer tends to focus on the political and ecclesiastical issues that dominated the time period, in England and throughout Europe. This is where Meyer shines as he goes into details about these issues, both in regular chapters and in background chapters that help bring this time period to life. Meyer does have a good writing style that helps novices of Tudor history understand the complex time period. 

Overall, I think this was a pretty good book. It was a bit darker than other Tudor books that I have read previously, but the Tudor time period was not all sunshine and roses. There were dark times and really good times that happened during the rule of this rather remarkable dynasty. If you want a decent book that will give you an introduction to this family drama, I recommend you read, “The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty” by G.J. Meyer.  

Book Review: “An Alternative History of Britain: The Tudors” by Timothy Venning

A1XRNNIWxkL.jpgThe study of history is all about asking questions about how and why events happened. We understand that history is very much a study of cause and effect; if a certain person causes something to happen, we study the effect of those actions. But what if the person changes what they do? What would happen to the course of history? These are considered the “what ifs” of history, which is something that history fans and students like to discuss with one another. These questions rarely are discussed in books, until now. Timothy Venning explores some of the “what ifs” of the Tudor Dynasty in his book, “An Alternative History of Britain: The Tudors”. 

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. This book was a rather interesting read and gave a different perspective to the Tudor dynasty as a whole.

 Instead of having an introduction to explain what he hopes to achieve with this book, Venning dives right into his discussion of some of the most famous “what if” questions about the Tudors. What if Prince Arthur lived to become King? What if Henry Fitzroy lived, could he have become King? What if Anne Boleyn survived? What if King Edward VI lived, who would he have married and what kind of King would he have been like? What if Lady Jane Grey stayed Queen of England, how would she have ruled England? What if Elizabeth I married Robert Dudley? What if the Spanish Armada succeeded in their plan to conquer England? Of course, Venning does include some of his own questions into the discussion as well to explore the entirety of the Tudor dynasty.

I honestly have mixed feelings about this book. I think Venning is very educated about the topics that he does discuss in this book. It is very much what I would call a “discussion starter” book. Venning gives his own opinions about these scenarios and gives readers something to think about. Some of the scenarios were relatively new ideas to me, which made me stop reading the book for a little bit to really think about what Venning is talking about and how history could have changed if one of the factors was changed.

Most of these topics are either political, martial, or military-related so we don’t really get to see how these events might have affected those who were not part of the royal family or the government. I wish Venning would have explored how these events would have impacted the country as a whole as well as how it might have impacted the culture of England. Venning does reference other events and figures in history in this book to make a point, which is fine, but I wish he didn’t compare the Tudors to modern figures that are seen as negative influences. It comes off as a bit distracting and I wish in these moments he would stick to talking about the Tudors.

Overall, I think this book was interesting. It really gives the reader a better understanding of how the Tudors survived during a very precarious time period in order to make England a better place for their people. Venning did present fascinating arguments for the reader to think about, but I wish he had written a bit better so that casual readers don’t get lost. If you want a book that makes you wonder about the “what ifs” of the Tudor dynasty, I would recommend you read, “An Alternative History of Britain: The Tudors” by Timothy Venning.