Book Review: “Arthur Plantagenet: Henry VIII’s Illegitimate Uncle” by Sarah-Beth Watkins

cover260113-medium (1)When we think of those who made an impact in history, we tend to think of those who have been born to a married couple and therefore were considered legitimate children, especially when it comes to royal children. However, we know that illegitimate royal children, like William the Conqueror, greatly impacted history. Illegitimate royal children may have been barred from becoming king or queen of their respective countries of birth, but that does not mean they didn’t impact how their home country was governed. One of these children who affected politics during the Tudor dynasty was Arthur Plantagenet, the illegitimate son of Edward IV. In her latest book, “Arthur Plantagenet: Henry VIII’s Illegitimate Uncle,” she explores the life of this man who gives us extraordinary insight into the running of Calais and how Henry VIII treated other family members.

I want to thank Pen and Sword Books and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book. I have enjoyed the previous books I read by Sarah-Beth Watkins, and when I heard that she was writing a new book about Arthur Plantagenet, I was thrilled to read it. I have only heard about Arthur Plantagenet as a side character in other biographies and novels during Henry VIII’s reign, so I was looking forward to learning more about this man.

Watkins begins by exploring the possible birth dates and Arthur’s birth mother, which is a difficult challenge because Edward IV was known for having several mistresses that we know about and probably others who have remained secrets in history. While some illegitimate children were not acknowledged by their royal fathers, it looks like Edward IV accepted Arthur and allowed him to have a good education that would have followed his legitimate sons’ education regime. After the shocking death of Edward IV and the reign of Richard III, we see Arthur establishing himself in the court of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York; we have records of Elizabeth of York taking care of her illegitimate half-brother. Arthur was so close to Elizabeth of York that he attended her funeral.

Arthur’s rise during the reign of Henry VIII focuses on this title. We see how Arthur started as a Spear of Honour and worked his way up to Viscount Lisle after Charles Brandon became Duke of Suffolk. He was a Knight of the Garter, the Vice Admiral of the Tudor Navy, and finally became Lord Deputy of Calais. Arthur was married twice to Elizabeth Grey and Honor Greenville, and although Elizabeth was the one who gave Arthur his daughters, Honor was the one who we know the most about because of the Lisle Letters.

With the title of Lord Deputy of Calais came significant responsibilities for taking care of France’s last remaining English city. Arthur Plantagenet had to deal with your average repairs, preparing the town for battle, civil disputes, religious quarrels, and plots against King Henry VIII. The time that Arthur and Honor were in Calais was a tumultuous time for England and Henry, and we get to see how Arthur felt about these issues, like the Pole family drama, through his Lisle letters. The connection with the Pole family led Arthur to become a prisoner in the Tower of London for two years as he was connected to the Botolf plot to take the city of Calais for the Pope.

Watkins brings the life of Arthur Plantagenet to the forefront and gives this hidden illegitimate Plantagenet his time to shine. It was a fascinating read, especially learning about how Calais was maintained and about the Botolf plot, which I had never heard about before reading this book. If you want an excellent book that introduces the life of Arthur Plantagenet and his role during the reign of King Henry VIII, I would highly recommend you read “Arthur Plantagenet: Henry VIII’s Illegitimate Uncle” by Sarah-Beth Watkins.

Guest Post: Excerpt from “Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer by Tony Riches”

Raleigh Tudor Adventurer Tour BannerToday, it is my pleasure to welcome back to the blog Tony Riches to share an excerpt from his latest Elizabethan novel, “Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer. I want to thank Tony Riches and The Coffee Pot Book Club for allowing me to be part of this tour. 

Excerpt

I’d never seen the presence chamber so crowded. The queen sat on her gilded throne, flanked on both sides by her ladies in their best gowns. Every space was filled with courtiers, and I was pleased to see all the members of the Privy Council, including Lord Burghley and my nemesis, Sir Christopher Hatton.

There were gasps and muttered comments as we entered. I’d been right. Her Majesty’s newest subjects were the talk of London, and I had become the center of attention. I strode forwards and bowed, relishing the moment.

‘Your Majesty, I present Manteo and Wanchese, from the New World, now claimed as the empire of Virginia.’

Although we’d provided them with warmer clothing, as they suffered with the cold of London in autumn, they were bare-chested and bare-footed, showing their tattooed bodies. With iridescent feathers in their plaited hair, they dressed in loincloths, with black furs draped over their shoulders, increasing their wild appearance.

As prepared in our rehearsal at Durham House, they marched confidently through the crowded chamber and fell to their knees before the queen. Manteo greeted her in his own language, then Wanchese opened a small box containing the bracelet of pearls.

The queen stared at her visitors with open curiosity, then took the pearl bracelet and turned to me. ‘We wish to thank them. Do they understand any English?’

‘These men are chieftains of their people, and the bracelets are a gift from their queen, Your Majesty. Chief Manteo is learning a little English, and Master Thomas Harriot is learning what he can of their language.’

‘Tell Master Harriot to explain that we thank their queen for her gift, and commend their bravery in making the journey to England.’ She turned the pearl bracelet in the light and looked up at me. ‘Did your men discover gold or jewels?’

‘What they found is worth more than gold or jewels, Your Majesty.’ I paused and looked around the chamber, aware of my new status. ‘They discovered rich, fertile land, stretching as far as they could see, and claimed it in the gracious name of Your Majesty.’ I pointed to Manteo and Wanchese. ‘These men made my captains most welcome, and will help us understand the opportunities of the country of Virginia for the benefit of your colonists.’

* * *

The first of my rewards proved a surprise. I’d been appointed the junior Member of Parliament for Devon. Parliament had not met for twelve years, and my tax on broadcloth exports was unpopular with influential wool merchants in Exeter, so my new appointment was unexpected.

Sir Francis Walsingham was quick to explain. ‘This is the fifth meeting of the queen’s reign, which the Privy Council has recommended to discuss national security.’

‘There is talk at court that the Throckmorton Plot is only part of a wider Catholic conspiracy.’

Sir Francis nodded. ‘My informers on the Continent discovered plans for an invasion of England led by Henry, Duke of Guise, financed by the Spanish and the Vatican.’ He frowned. ‘We have to do whatever we can to prevent a simultaneous revolt of English Catholics.’

‘Do you think they might try?’ With a jolt, I realized how quickly everything I’d built up could vanish, like a morning mist.

‘You’ve seen the seditious pamphlet they call Leicester’s Commonwealth?’

‘I have, but no one, apart perhaps from the Earl of Leicester, takes it too seriously—’

‘That’s where you’re wrong, Master Raleigh. The Catholic faction draws encouragement from such works, and there are thousands of copies in circulation on the Continent. The pamphlet is a threat to our queen. We mustn’t forget Prince William of Orange was murdered by a man he trusted, a Catholic named Balthasar Gérard, who used a pistol at close range.’ Sir Francis shook his head. ‘He was assassinated at dinner in his own house, a reminder why we have to be prepared for anything.’

‘What do you wish me to do?’

‘A new act is to be put before Parliament, for the safety of the queen, to prevent any open invasion or rebellion, or any attempt to injure Her Majesty. Any person found guilty will be disbarred from inheriting the throne, and sentenced to death for treason.’

‘Including the queen’s cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots?’

He nodded. ‘Catholic sympathizers in Parliament will do all they can to delay, so use your influence to ensure the act is passed.’

I looked at him in surprise. I had no experience of politics or as a Member of Parliament and hadn’t seen myself as capable of political influence. Sir Francis Walsingham sat like a spider in the complex web of court, and his words proved that, at last, I’d achieved my ambition.

Raleigh coverRaleigh – Tudor Adventurer

(The Elizabethan Series, Book 3)

By Tony Riches

Blurb

Tudor adventurer, courtier, explorer, and poet Sir Walter Raleigh has been called the last true Elizabethan.

He didn’t dance or joust, didn’t come from a noble family, or marry into one. So how did an impoverished law student become a favorite of the queen and Captain of the Guard?

The story, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy, follows Walter Raleigh from his first days at the Elizabethan Court to the end of the Tudor dynasty.

Buy Links:

Available on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link: mybook. to/Raleigh

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09Z98J183

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09Z98J183

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B09Z98J183

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B09Z98J183

Tony Riches Author (1)Author Bio:

Tony Riches

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, and is a specialist in the lives of the Tudors. He also runs the popular Stories of the Tudors Podcast’ podcast and posts book reviews and guest posts at his blog, The Writing Desk. For more information, visit his website tonyriches.com and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

Social Media Links:

Blog: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com/

Website: https://www.tonyriches.com/

Podcast: https://tonyriches.podbean.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tonyriches

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tonyriches.author

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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/tonyriches

Book Review: “Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer (Elizabethan Book #3)” by Tony Riches

61016647._SY475_A man who wants to get ahead in any royal court must have an impeccable background and a willingness to serve his monarch no matter the obstacles thrown their way. It takes an extraordinary man who doesn’t have a pristine background to make it in the ruthless world of a royal court, but some men made names for themselves. One such man was an adventurer, a poet, an explorer, and a courtier. He came from humble beginnings and rose to prominence to become known as one of the last true Elizabethans. The man was Sir Walter Raleigh, and his story is told in Tony Riches’ latest novel, “Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer.”

I want to thank Tony Riches for sending me a copy of this novel. I have enjoyed his previous books in his Elizabethan series on Sir Francis Drake and Robert Devereux Earl of Essex, so I was thrilled when a new story about Sir Walter Raleigh was announced. I previously read a novel about Sir Walter Raleigh’s mother this year, so I was looking forward to an adventure with her son.

Walter Raleigh began his career as a law student who was not passionate about the law. He is ambitious and eventually attracts the attention of Queen Elizabeth I herself; it is in her court that he becomes a courtier and, finally, her Captain of the Guard. His dream was to set sail on the open seas with his brother. He finally gets his chance to sail the high seas, but it is not as glamorous as he envisioned, but he is hooked on the thrill of the adventure.

Some look down on Raleigh because he is not part of a noble family, but he rose through the ranks to become one of the Queen’s favorites. His good looks and charisma attracted the attention of many young ladies, including Bess Throckmorton, who would later become his wife. However, the bulk of this novel focuses on the adventures and investments Raleigh was known for. From Ireland and Cadiz to the New World and the search for the legendary City of Gold, Riches takes his readers on swashbuckling journeys full of perilous battles and high rewards.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Raleigh’s relationships with everyone from Queen Elizabeth I to his wife, Bess Raleigh. The audience gets a chance to see the inner workings of Elizabeth’s court through the eyes of someone who knew what it meant to be on Elizabeth’s good side. I also enjoyed the poetry that Riches weaves into this narrative to give his audience a better understanding of what Raleigh might have felt during crucial moments in his life. My one issue with this novel was that some of the battles and scenes during Raleigh’s expeditions felt a tad rushed to me, and I wish Riches developed these scenes a bit more.

Overall, I found this novel satisfying to read and a real treat for any Tudor fan. If you have enjoyed the previous Elizabethan series books or are looking for a stand-alone story about Sir Walter Raleigh, I would propose you read “Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer” by Tony Riches.

Book Review: “Of Blood Descended” by Steven Veerapen

60293344._SY475_The year is 1522, and London is in a jovial mood. King Henry VIII and his wife Catherine of Aragon are to play host to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V as he visits England. As one of King Henry VIII’s most loyal advisors, Cardinal Wolsey had the great honor of hosting a grand masque featuring King Arthur and the Black Knight for the distinguished company. Unfortunately, as preparations for the luxurious masque are in full swing, Wolsey’s historian is horrifically murdered. The only one who can solve the case is Anthony Blanke, the son of John Blanke, the trumpeter before the masque is ruined, and Henry VIII discovers the truth. The story of this case is told in Steven Veerapen’s latest novel, “Of Blood Descended.”

I want to thank Steven Veerapen for sending me a copy of his latest novel. I am always in the mood for a good Tudor mystery, and when I heard that the main character was the son of John Blanke, I was intrigued to see how Veerapen would portray his story.

Veerapen begins this novel by introducing Pietro Gonzaga, Cardinal Wolsey’s historian, and his family as Gonzaga is on the cusp of revolutionary discovery. We then cut to Anthony Blanke returning to London after his father, John Blanke’s death. He is reluctant to go back to court and all of its intrigues, but it is necessary as Cardinal Wolsey himself summoned him. Wolsey is hosting a grand masque in honor of King Henry VIII and the Imperial Emperor Charles V; the theme is King Arthur and the Black Knight, and he has decided to cast Anthony as the titular Black Knight.

Progress with the masque goes smoothly until someone discovers Signor Gonzaga’s body after being brutally slain. Gonzaga’s murder sets the stage for a whirlwind chase to find the murderer, but the monster leaves a trail of blood behind him, and no one is safe. The action, intrigue, and mysteries will keep you guessing until the final pages to figure out who the mastermind was behind it all.

I loved the mystery behind the murder and how Veerapen was able to weave the Arthurian legends and prophecies with the story of the Tudors. I enjoyed the cameos from Thomas Boleyn and Anne Boleyn, but my favorite cameo was Henry VIII’s historian Polydore Vergil, who does not appear that often in Tudor historical fiction. I thought Anthony was such a fascinating protagonist as he gave a different perspective on the diversity of London life. Even though characters like Anthony Blanke, Sister Jane, Mark Byfield, and Harry Gainsford are entirely fictional characters, they feel like they would fit exceptionally well in the Tudor world.

I thoroughly enjoyed every twist and turn that Veerapen included in this novel. I hope to see more stories with Anthony, Jane, Mark, and Harry. If you enjoy Tudor murder mysteries, you will be enthralled with “Of Blood Descended” by Steven Veerapen.

Book Review: “Queen’s Gambit: A Novel of Katherine Parr” by Elizabeth Fremantle

18950719To be married to a king may seem like a dream, but reality can be cruel. Take the wives of Henry VIII. After saying ” I do,” each wife had to deal with complex challenges after saying “I do.” We all know the poem; divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived, but does that define these queens? After the death of her second husband, Katherine Parr must choose between Henry VIII and Thomas Seymour, the man who has captured her heart. She must navigate love, court intrigues, and the treacherous religious landscape of England in the 1540s to survive. Katherine’s life as Queen of England and how close she came to a disastrous fall from grace are explored in Elizabeth Fremantle’s first novel, “Queen’s Gambit: A Novel of Katherine Parr.”

I have heard about this particular novel for years, and I have wanted to read it for a long time. Katherine Parr is my favorite wife of King Henry VIII, but sadly there are not many novels about her. When it was announced that this novel would be turned into a new movie called “Firebrand,” I knew now was the perfect time to read this book.

“Queen’s Gambit” begins with Katherine Parr at the deathbed of her second husband, Lord Latymer. Their relationship was full of love, but it was also stained with tragedy as Katherine was left alone to fend off the Pilgrimage of Grace, which scarred both Katherine and her stepdaughter Meg for years to come. With the death of Lord Latymer, Katherine returns to court with Meg and her beloved maid Dot, where she falls hard to the debonair Thomas Seymour. Their love can never be as another man has his eyes on the desirable widow, and no one ever disobeys King Henry VIII. Katherine Parr marries the king and becomes his sixth wife, a queen of England.

As queen, Katherine’s life might seem like a dream, but dealing with an ailing husband and trying to promote her religious views without losing her head is a balancing act. I thoroughly enjoyed how Fremantle portrayed Katherine and her time as queen and eventually the wife of Thomas Seymour. Her relationships with Henry VIII, Thomas Seymour, Anne Askew, Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward are complicated but well fleshed out. I also enjoyed the additional characters that Fremantle included in Katherine’s tale, especially the loyal to a fault Dot and Huicke, the king’s physician whose friendship would become invaluable to Katherine.

This was my first time reading a book by Elizabeth Fremantle, and I cannot wait to read another story. Fremantle does a superb job of telling Katherine’s story in an engaging and thoughtful manner. It was so interesting that I did not want this novel to end.

Katherine Parr was not just the final wife who survived King Henry VIII’s last years. She was a wife, a loving stepmother, a widow, a woman in love, a caring friend, a writer, and a reformer. Her life was full of risks, tragedies, and love. If you love Tudor historical fiction novels, you will adore “Queen’s Gambit: A Novel of Katherine Parr” by Elizabeth Fremantle.

Book Review: “The Tudor Socialite: A Social Calendar of Tudor Life” by Jan-Marie Knights

52650913The Tudor dynasty was full of colorful characters and events that defined the era. Their lives were full of love affairs, marriages, births, wars, tragedies, and triumphs. In numerous books about these monarchs and this period in history, we have seen the significant events that defined the era, but what about lesser-known social events that these monarchs participated in. The bulk of the research into this dynasty focuses on those who ruled, from Henry VII to Elizabeth I, because their lives give us a brilliant insight into what it was like to live in the glittery Tudor court. In “The Tudor Socialite: A Social Calendar of Tudor Life,” Jan-Marie Knights gives her readers a glimpse into the social calendar of the Tudor rich and famous.

I want to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. When I saw the title of this book, I was intrigued. I was hoping for a book that would include different religious holidays and festivals that the Tudors would have known.

Knights starts her book by giving her readers a brief history lesson from Richard II to Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses in five pages; talk about a whirlwind of an introduction. Readers then see how Knights will format her book by looking at each Tudor monarch with a broad lens and then taking a diary-style approach to their reigns to explain the significant events of their rules. I enjoyed how Knights included more minor pageants and visits that each monarch took part in and cases that average Tudor fans do not hear about as much.

I did have a few issues when I was reading this particular title. I wouldn’t say I liked that the entries for each event were written in the present tense; I know it was supposed to be a diary of the monarch, but as a nonfiction book about a historical period, it threw me for a loop. I also wish we saw more of the liturgical calendar and how it corresponded with the other events during each monarch’s reign, especially during the reformation when the Tudors wrestled between Catholicism and Protestantism. Finally, I do wish Knights would have included either footnotes or endnotes, especially with lesser-known events, so that readers could explore the social events themselves.

Knights has done her research, but I think it needed to be refined and maybe told in a different style to better connect with her audience. Overall, as an overview of the reigns of the Tudor monarchs and the critical events that defined their lives, this book does a decent job for those new to the Tudor dynasty. If you know your Tudor history, this might not be the book for you, but you may learn about a pageant or a strange case. If you are a novice Tudor fan, you might enjoy reading “The Tudor Socialite: A Social Calendar of Tudor Life” by Jan-Marie Knights.

Book Review: “Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court” by Owen Emmerson and Kate McCaffrey

278021206_976866119687329_5395301118592288697_nWhen we study the past, the stories of queens often begin when they marry their prince or the king. We don’t see their formative years unless they are extraordinary. One of the more extraordinary queens in English history was Anne Boleyn, a woman who was able to capture the heart of King Henry VIII, divide her nation, and gave birth to the legendary Queen Elizabeth I. We all know how the story of Anne Boleyn ends, but how did she become the woman who would one day be Queen of England? Hever Castle currently has an exhibition about Anne Boleyn’s formative years. This corresponding book, “Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court” by Owen Emmerson and Kate McCaffrey, gives readers an in-depth look into her early years.

“Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court,” the exhibition to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s debut at the English Court on March 4, 1522, is currently running at Hever Castle until November 9, 2022, for anyone interested in attending. For those who cannot participate in this exhibit, like me, “Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court” by Owen Emmerson and Kate McCaffrey is perfect for celebrating this momentous event in Tudor history.

We begin our exploration of Anne Boleyn’s formative years by looking at how the Boleyn family rose to a prominent position at Henry VIII’s court. Thomas Boleyn rose through the ranks and married well to Lady Elizabeth Howard. The Boleyn children were given the best possible education to secure great marriages. Anne’s education inside England and throughout Europe defined her as a captivating figure in history. Her international education included stays at the court of Margaret of Austria in Mechelen, Queen Mary Tudor, and Queen Claude in France, Louise of Savoy, and Marguerite of Angouleme.

Emmerson and McCaffrey have written a book that combines the latest in Boleyn research from the top experts, including Lauren Mackay, Elizabeth Norton, Tracy Borman, and Claire Ridgway, to name a few. For a companion book for an exhibit about Anne Boleyn, I found this book informative and was complemented by the gorgeous images that the authors included. If you want a delightfully informative and beautifully illustrated book about Anne Boleyn’s formative years, I recommend reading “Becoming Anne: Connections, Culture, Court” by Owen Emmerson and Kate McCaffrey.

Book Review: “The Finder of Lost Things” by Kathy Lynn Emerson

55583378._SY475_Blanche Wainfleet, a merchant’s wife living in England in 1590, has a reputation for finding items that others have deemed lost. Blanche has a gift for finding mementos important to others, from lost handkerchiefs to pets. However, there is one thing that she is searching for that will prove her greatest challenge yet, finding the truth about her sister’s murder. Blanche’s sister Alison fell in love with a Catholic man and converted to the Catholic faith when there was a war between Catholicism and Protestantism. To uncover the truth, Blanche must infiltrate the Otley family who took Alison in during her final days, but will she discover the truth and come out of the ordeal alive? This is the premise of Kathy Lynn Emerson’s latest novel, “The Finder of Lost Things.”

I want to thank Kathy Lynn Emerson for sending me a copy of this novel. I am always looking for new authors to follow in Tudor historical fiction, so when I heard about this novel, I decided to give it a chance.

We first meet Blanche Wainfleet as she is imprisoned at Colchester Castle for reading an illegal book about Catholicism. She is thrown into the same cell as Lady Otley and other devout Catholics arrested for illegally hearing mass. This is all part of an elaborate ruse to infiltrate the Otley family and gain their favor to unearth the truth about Alison. When a royal pardon is passed for all women prisoners, Blanche convinces Lady Otley to allow her to take Alison’s spot in her household. Blanche realizes that her prison cell is safer than living with this family in the Otley household.

I like how Emerson captured the divide between Catholicism and Protestantism during this time. She shows how Catholic priests and those dedicated to Catholicism were in fear for their lives for practicing their faith. To see how she described priest holes was also very good.

I did have a few issues with this title. There were points where I was not sure if I was reading a Tudor novel or something from the late 16th-early 17th century; I wish she would have added more Tudor elements that would have been familiar to readers. Another aspect that I was not comfortable reading was the element of exorcisms with this story. I know that there were incidents where exorcisms happened during the medieval and Tudor times, but Emerson’s description bothered me quite a bit.

Overall, I thought this was a decent novel. I liked the characters, especially the brave and determined Blanche and Kit, her loving husband. I wanted to see more interactions between those two, but maybe she will include this couple in a future novel. If you want a murder mystery novel that shows the Catholic underground during the late reign of Elizabeth I, I would recommend” The Finder of Lost Things” by Kathy Lynn Emerson.

Book Review: “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell

43890641._SY475_The Black Death has ravished England and Europe for centuries. Although the plague in the 16th century was not as devastating as in previous centuries, it still was a horrific disease that killed thousands. For example, in Warwickshire, England, a family understood how unforgiving death could be and how it can tear down even the strongest of familial bonds. The family of the playwright William Shakespeare must navigate the sudden loss of their beloved son while they keep their family together. “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell is the story of the death of one child and how his death affected so many people.

When it comes to this book, it was one of those titles that I had heard so many good things about it, but I waited for a while until I bought it for myself. I wanted to understand why it was such a beloved novel.

It should be noted that O’Farrell does write in the present tense, which is somewhat unusual for a historical fiction novel. Since I do not read many books written in the present tense, it took me a few pages to feel comfortable with the narrative. We witness Hamnet rushing all over town to find his family as his twin sister Edith lays sick in bed, fearing that she is ill with the plague. We then switch to a different scene where we see the mother named Agnes, who is deemed eccentric and unusual, fall in love with a penniless Latin tutor who is the son of a glover. These two storylines seem separate, but when you realize how they connect, it shows how strong the love between Agnes and her husband was and how she fiercely loved her children.

In the end, it was not Judith who died but Hamnet. His death shifts the entire tone of this book, and we see the whole family grieve in different ways. Grief is painful for everyone, but Agnes’s grief is debilitating. Often, O’Farrell would have a scene in this novel or a line to make me want to cry. Hamnet’s death and the aftermath have been one of the most emotional rollercoasters I have read all year.

This novel was spectacular in the way it was written. Although the present tense did throw me for a loop at first, the story and its emotional weight were nothing short of impressive. It may have been about the Shakespeare family during the late Tudor dynasty, but it can translate to any family dealing with a pandemic, past or present. It is a novel that transcends time that anyone who loves historical fiction will devour. If you want an elegantly written book with a poignant storyline, “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell should be on your to-be-read pile.

Guest Post: “ Gertrude Courtenay: Forgotten Tudor Woman” by Sylvia Barbara Soberton

banner-blogtour1Today, I am pleased to welcome Sylvia Barbara Soberton back to discuss another forgotten Tudor woman, Gertrude Courtenay, who is the subject of her latest book, “The Forgotten Tudor Women: Gertrude Courtenay. Wife and Mother of the last Plantagenets”.

The biography of Gertrude Courtenay, Marchioness of Exeter, is the third volume in my best-selling series Forgotten Tudor Women. As the title of the series suggests, I am writing about the lesser-known women of the Tudor court. When I say “lesser-known”, I don’t mean that little is known about these women. Quite the contrary; they left an extraordinary trail of letters, papers, and documents and made their presence known to various chroniclers and ambassadors.

Why Gertrude, you may ask? Long story short: She was amazing! I wanted to write a biography of Gertrude for a very long time. Why was she so special?

Married to Henry VIII’s first cousin Henry Courtenay, Earl of Devon and then Marquis of Exeter, Gertrude was the wife and mother of the last Plantagenets at the Tudor court. Her husband, after whose noble title the Exeter Conspiracy is known today, was executed in 1538, and their son, Edward, spent fourteen years imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Gertrude was among the key political players of Henry VIII’s court during the infamous annulment, known as the Great Matter, commencing in 1527 and ending in 1533. A Catholic and staunch supporter of the King’s first wife, Katharine of Aragon, and their daughter, Princess Mary, Gertrude took an active part in the most turbulent events of Henry VIII’s political and private life. She was far from a passive observer, though. She exchanged letters with Eustace Chapuys, ambassador of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and even visited him in disguise when it was dangerous to become Henry VIII’s enemy. She gave ear to the Nun of Kent’s prophecies (for which the Nun was executed in 1534) and remained Katharine of Aragon’s supporter even after the Queen’s banishment.

Gertrude’s hatred of Anne Boleyn, the King’s second wife, and everything she stood for achieved epic proportions and made Gertrude’s support of Katharine and Mary even more resounding. It was Gertrude who took an active part in the fall of Anne Boleyn and the rise of Jane Seymour in May 1536. Godmother to two Tudor monarchs, Elizabeth I and Edward VI, Gertrude was prominent in court circles until her luck ran out when her husband was executed in December 1538. His crime was having a close friendship with Henry Pole, brother of Cardinal Reginald Pole, with whom he discussed politics. Although Henry Courtenay died on the scaffold and their son was imprisoned for fifteen years, Gertrude was released from the Tower of London and survived under the radar until Henry VIII’s elder daughter, Mary, ascended to the throne in 1553. Gertrude’s lifelong friendship with Mary was tested when the Queen rejected Gertrude’s son as a prospective husband.

Gertrude’s story had to be told, and I am overjoyed that I can introduce her to a wider audience.

book-cover-forgotten-3-kdp-uploadAbout the Book

Gertrude Courtenay led a dangerous life, both personally and politically. Daughter of a prominent courtier, she started her career as maid of honor and then lady-in-waiting to Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife.

She sided with the Queen during the Great Matter, as the divorce case between Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragon was then often known. A bitter enemy of the King’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, Gertrude, plotted and intrigued with Henry VIII’s enemies, brushing with treason on many occasions.

Wife and mother of the last Plantagenets of the Tudor court, Gertrude was an ambitious and formidable political player. The story of her life is a thrilling tale of love and loss, conspiracies and plots, treason and rebellion.

This is Gertrude’s story.