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In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII by Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger

Posted By Claire on May 26, 2016

In the Footsteps
Back in 2013, I reviewed Sarah and Natalie’s first book In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn which was described as “the visitor’s companion to the palaces, castles and houses associated with Henry VIII’s infamous wife”. You can click here to read my review of it, but suffice to say I loved it. I saw it as a book with multiple uses: an invaluable resource for those planning a history themed holiday in the UK, but also a book that allowed readers all around the world to find out more about the historical places from the comfort of their favourite chair.

This second instalment, which is about historical places linked to all of Henry VIII’s wives, is just as good and works in the same way. I did wonder how Sarah and Natalie were going to handle the Anne Boleyn section, seeing as they’d written a whole book on places linked to Anne, but it was done really well and I never felt “I’ve read this before”. Obviously some Anne Boleyn places have been duplicated, but four more have been added because Natalie and Sarah have continued their research: Haseley Court, Buckingham, Hunsdon House and Chertsey Abbey.

The book on places connected to Anne Boleyn took readers around the south-east and south-west of England, and to France and Belgium, but this book takes readers even further: Spain, Germany, and a greater part of the UK, including Henry VIII’s famous Northern Progress route. There are eight maps at the start to help you with the locations and there are stunning photographs, old engravings and plans. The research is meticulous and I know how hard Natalie and Sarah worked on this book as I followed their travels on social media and I also met up with Natalie at the Alhambra in Granada – it was a pleasure sharing that day with her and her family.

The book is divided into 7 main parts, with properties sorted into each:

  1. Principal Royal Residences – This was a great way of handling the places that are common to all the wives, being royal palaces.
  2. Katherine of Aragon – This includes a wonderful tour of some of Spain’s most beautiful locations (Madrid, Valladolid, Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Santiago de Compostela), along with English properties like Ludlow Castle, Leeds Castle and the properties where Katherine spent her last years, away from court.
  3. Anne Boleyn – This takes readers from Hever to Belgium to France, and then back to England to the properties Anne visited as queen and on the south-western progress with Henry VIII.
  4. Jane Seymour – We are taken from Wolfhall in Wiltshire to properties in London with links to Jane.
  5. Anne of Cleves – Anne of Cleves may only have been Henry VIII’s wife and queen for six months, but this section takes us from various locations in Germany linked to Anne and her family, then on to Belgium and France as Anne made her way to England to marry Henry, to the places she was granted after the annulment and that she stayed in during the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I.
  6. Catherine Howard – This section includes Norfolk House, one of the properties that Catherine was brought up in; Oatlands Palace, where she married Henry VIII; the properties the royal couple stayed in on their Northern Progress, and Syon Abbey, where Catherine was kept after her fall.
  7. Katherine Parr – Properties in this section include ones located in Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, London, Kent, Surrey and the Cotswolds, the location of Sudeley Castle, where Katherine spent her final days and where she was laid to rest.

The book also contains a “Further Reading” section, which is useful for those who want to know even more about these queens and the places linked to them.

It’s a great book, I can’t recommend it highly enough, and even if you’re never going to visit Europe this book is still for you, travel vicariously through this book!

Book Details


This book provides a fresh perspective on the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives by embarking on a journey through the manors, castles and palaces in which their lives were played out. This journey traces their steps to the Alhambra in Spain, childhood home of Katherine of Aragon; to the very room at Acton Court where Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII publicly dined; through the cobbled grounds of Hampton Court Palace, which bore witness to both triumph and tragedy for Jane Seymour; into the streets of Düsseldorf in Germany, birthplace of Anne of Cleves; among the ruins and picturesque gardens of St Mary’s Abbey in York where Catherine Howard and Henry VIII rested at the pinnacle of the 1541 progress; and to Gainsborough Old Hall in Lincolnshire, where Katherine Parr lived as daughter-in-law of the irascible Sir Thomas Brough.

Each location is described in a fascinating narrative that unearths the queens’ lives in documents and artefacts, as well as providing practical visitor information based on the authors’ first-hand knowledge of each site. Accompanied by an extensive range of images including timelines, maps, photographs and sketches, this book brings us closer than ever to the women behind the legends, providing a personal and illuminating journey in the footsteps of the six wives of Henry VIII.

Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (15 Mar. 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445642913
ISBN-13: 978-1445642918
Available from, Amazon UK and your usual bookstore.

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Katherine Howard: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s Fifth Queen by Josephine Wilkinson

Posted By Claire on April 7, 2016

Katherine HowardI’ve been looking forward to this book coming out for some time as I knew that Josephine was working on it. For years, the only real biographies of Katherine Howard were the ones by Lacey Baldwin Smith and Joanna Denny, so I am very pleased that Katherine is now being reappraised by the likes of Conor Byrne, Gareth Russell and Josephine Wilkinson (plus I’m writing about her fall!). It’s good to get different viewpoints on this fifth wife of Henry VIII and to see her getting some attention.

Josephine Wilkinson’s book opens with a beautifully written prologue. It’s actually about the execution of Katherine’s cousin, Queen Anne Boleyn, which confuses you temporarily, but it ends with the words “It was a momentous event. Anne Boleyn was the first Queen of England ever to be executed; none could have imagined that she would not be the last.” It was the perfect opener to this biography, it sets the scene.

The reader is then taken through Katherine’s life chronologically, from her “calamitous childhood” to her execution. It is the perfect go-to book on Katherine because it is so detailed and the quotations, notes, and bibliography show just how meticulously this book has been researched. Josephine challenges the views that Katherine was a foolish and reckless airhead who was allowed to run riot at her stepgrandmother’s houses and who later made the grave error of cheating on her husband the king. Josephine puts forward her view of Katherine’s upbringing and her relationships with Henry Manox, Francis Dereham, and Thomas Culpeper, backing it up with solid primary source evidence. I enjoyed the details on the Dowager Duchess’s household and what life would have been like there for young Katherine. This detailed background and context, along with information on the roles of people in the household and Katherine’s status, help the reader to understand Katherine’s sexual past and to look at it and Katherine in a new light.

One thing that really made me stop and think was Josephine’s depiction of Katherine’s marriage to Henry VIII. So often we think of Katherine as a young girl forced to marry a much older, smelly, bad-tempered tyrant of a man who’s well past his prime, but Josephine asks us to consider an alternative. It is clear that Henry VIII doted on his young wife and perhaps Katherine was happy with this. Here was a man who was gentle and loving to her, and who offered her security. Josephine writes of how he shielded her from his temper and treated her well. He showed Katherine “genuine, passionate love, and had treated her with respect.” So why then did she look to Thomas Culpeper, you may ask, well perhaps that wasn’t what it seemed either.

I’m not going to spoil this book by sharing any more information. If you’re interested in reading a fresh take on Katherine Howard then this is a must-read. Although it’s fully referenced and is perfect for a research book, Josephine uses a writing style that would draw any Tudor enthusiast into Katherine’s story. It is an enjoyable and enlightening read.


Looming out of the encroaching darkness of the February evening was London Bridge, still ornamented with the severed heads of Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham; the terrible price they had paid for suspected intimacy with the queen.

Katherine now reached the Tower of London, her final destination.

Katherine Howard was the fifth wife of Henry VIII and cousin to the executed Anne Boleyn. She first came to court as a young girl of fourteen, but even prior to that her fate had been sealed and she was doomed to die. She was beheaded in 1542 for crimes of adultery and treason, in one of the most sensational scandals of the Tudor age.

The traditional story of Henry VIII’s fifth queen dwells on her sexual exploits before she married the king, and her execution is seen as her just dessert for having led an abominable life. However, the true story of Katherine Howard could not be more different.

Far from being a dark tale of court factionalism and conspiracy, Katherine’s story is one of child abuse, family ambition, religious conflict and political and sexual intrigue. It is also a tragic love story. A bright, kind and intelligent young woman, Katherine was fond of clothes and dancing, yet she also had a strong sense of duty and tried to be a good wife to Henry. She handled herself with grace and queenly dignity to the end, even as the barge carrying her on her final journey drew up at the Tower of London, where she was to be executed for high treason.

Little more than a child in a man’s world, she was the tragic victim of those who held positions of authority over her, and from whose influence she was never able to escape.

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: John Murray (7 April 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1444796267
ISBN-13: 978-1444796261
Available as a hardback and kindle now from Amazon UK and as a kindle book from I haven’t seen a date for the US hardback.

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Tudor Tales by Dave Tonge

Posted By Claire on March 16, 2016

Tudor TalesDave Tonge is a historian turned professional story-teller, a man used to entertaining adults and children with historical tales at events and at historic sites, and this skill and expertise shines through in his book Tudor Tales. Sometimes, people can be good at public speaking and entertaining audiences live but it then doesn’t work when they translate it into a book format. But, let me assure you, Dave Tonge is good at both!

I took Tudor Tales away with me on a course recently and it was the perfect antidote at the end of a busy and brain-stretching day. It was lovely to read this in bed to wind down. And what was even better for me, a woman with a very full bookcase, is that it’s completely different to my other Tudor history books. It was a true breath of fresh air. It’s also a beautiful looking book. The History Press has done a great job with the cover design. They could have gone down the route of putting some funny picture on it, but I’m glad they didn’t. This is a very classy cover.

Tudor Tales is a blend of history and stories: a blend of entertaining stories from the Tudor period – many of which had me chuckling to myself – and Dave’s explanation of the historical context, the historical sources and historical examples to tie in with the stories. For example, in his introduction to the tale “Of the gentlewoman who had the last word”, Dave explains about slander cases which were brought before the consistory courts and gives real life examples – fascinating!

You’ll be pleased to know that Dave has modernised the stories, changing the spellings and punctuation to make them easier to read and understand today, without losing their historical flavour or magic. Dave writes “Because many of the tales were drawn from oral culture and told aloud in Tudor times, I have attempted to give a feel of the telling in my versions” and I would say that his attempts have been successful. I just hope that the History Press turns this into an audio book with Dave narrating these wonderful tales, that would be perfect!

Tudor Tales also includes a notes section, glossary (so you know what “cozenage” and “mendicant” mean, for example) and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.


In Tudor times the ‘common sort’ were no different from us, laughing together, mocking each other and sharing bawdy tales in tavern yards, marketplaces and anywhere else that people came together. These stories were later collected in the cheap print of the period, and professional storyteller Dave Tonge has sought them out to assemble here. Within these pages hide smooth-talking tricksters, lusty knaves, wayward youths and stories of the eternal struggle to wear the breeches in the family, for a sometimes coarse but often comic telling of the everyday ups and downs in Tudor life.

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: The History Press; 1 edition (2 Nov. 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0750962410
ISBN-13: 978-0750962414
Kindle ASIN: B01491XKKM
Available from and, and your usual bookstore.

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From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins

Posted By Claire on March 7, 2016

From the charred remainsFrom the Charred Remains is a historical mystery set in 1666 just after the Great Fire has swept through the city. The protagonist, Lucy Campion, a maid in the household of the local magistrate, is helping to clear away the rubble of buildings burnt down by the fire, when two boys discover a body. A corpse would not be unusual in itself, but this one was hidden in a barrel and has a knife sticking out of its chest. The man did not die in the fire.

Lucy has come to a crossroads in her life. Her mistress is dead from the plague so she’s a lady’s maid in a house with no lady, and she’s in love with the son of the house, Adam. She can’t live in this limbo any more, so she persuades a printer to take her on as an apprentice and in her spare time, with the help of her good friend Constable Duncan, she investigates the murder with the help of a bag of a “hodgepodge” of interesting objects found near the body, putting herself and those she cares about in danger. The investigation takes her from taverns to noble households, from gamblers to earls, from decoding poems to investigating alleged poisoning, from serving in a magistrate’s household to being put in prison! And this man’s dead body won’t be the last she sees!

It’s a wonderful read. Lucy is a likeable character and it’s easy to identify with her thoughts and feelings even though we’re nearly 400 years removed from her life and times. I also loved the Constable’s character and was desperate for Lucy to give up on Adam and fall for him instead!

I hadn’t read the first Lucy Campion mystery, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, but this didn’t matter. I may have missed out on some of Lucy’s life story by diving into book 2 first, but the mystery was a stand-alone one and so could be enjoyed out of order, and the writing certainly drew me into the story. I will definitely be reading the next two, The Masque of a Murderer and A Death Along the River Fleet.

Blurb from Amazon:

It’s 1666 and the Great Fire has just decimated an already plague-ridden London. Lady’s maid Lucy Campion, along with pretty much everyone else left standing, is doing her part to help the city clean up and recover. But their efforts come to a standstill when a couple of local boys stumble across a dead body that should have been burned up in the fire but miraculously remained intact―the body of a man who died not from the plague or the fire, but from the knife plunged into his chest.

Searching for a purpose now that there’s no lady in the magistrate’s household for her to wait on, Lucy has apprenticed herself to a printmaker. But she can’t help but use her free time to help the local constable, and she quickly finds herself embroiled in the murder investigation. It will take all of her wits and charm, not to mention a strong stomach and a will of steel, if Lucy hopes to make it through alive herself.

With “From the Charred Remains”, Susanna Calkins delivers another atmospheric historical mystery that will enchant readers with its feisty heroine and richly detailed depiction of life in Restoration England.

Series: Lucy Campion Mysteries (Book 2)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (March 17, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250060516
ISBN-13: 978-1250060518
Available from, and your usual bookstore.

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The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII by Suzannah Lipscomb

Posted By Claire on December 18, 2015

The king is deadBefore I begin my review of the content, let me start by saying that Suzannah Lipscomb’s latest book The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII is stunning. It’s a square-shaped hardback book with a beautifully illustrated cover. The cover image has embossing and the K and the D of the title are illuminated. It’s just the kind of book that you want decorating your coffee table – gorgeous. It also features colour illustrations inside – very well produced.

But now to the content…

I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since I heard that Suzannah was working on it. I’ve done a fair bit of research in the past on Henry VIII’s will and the changes he made to it in December 1546 and I knew that Suzannah’s work was going to offer a new take on the topic. As Suzannah explains in her introduction, and then in more detail in the main book, some eminent historians have argued that Henry’s final will “was the product of a conspiracy staged by an ‘evangelical’ or proto-Protestant faction at court seeking to advance reform”, led by Edward Seymour and Sir William Paget, and that it did not reflect Henry VIII’s real wishes. However, Suzannah puts forward a case for Henry VIII being in full control at this point and challenges the validity of the argument of those other historians and the evidence that they base it on. Step by step, she dismantles that argument while putting forward evidence for her view. It really is a fascinating analysis of those last few months.

As well as looking at the will itself, and the changes that were made, Suzannah covers the background to the will (the political/religious context etc.), Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine Parr and her near-fall, Henry VIII’s final year – Wriothesley’s moves against reformers and the fall of Surrey and Norfolk, they men who were in positions of power at the time, and those chosen to be executors and Edward VI’s council (and why Stephen Gardiner was removed). One bit that really intrigued me because it’s an event that I had never come across, or that just hadn’t struck me before, was the story of George Blage. When Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, was out of the country, Thomas Wriothesley launched a “targeted campaign” against reformers, which, of course, included the interrogation, torture and execution of Anne Askew. In July 1546, Wriothesley also targeted courtier George Blage, a member of the king’s Privy Chamber who was also a diplomat, soldier, evangelical, poet and a friend of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and Thomas Wyatt. Blage was also a friend of the king, who referred to him as “my pig”. Wriothesley seemed to think nothing of targeting Blage and arresting him for heresy, but, as Suzannah points out, this move “was an extraordinary miscalculation”. Although Henry VIII was very much against heresy, Blage was his good friend and personal servant and Wriothesley had gone to far. The king was furious and ordered Wriothesley to issue a pardon. I found this event interesting because it shows that nobody could move against someone the king cared about without his blessing. As Suzannah comments, “The incident reveals the audacity of conservative machinations at court, but also, importantly, the limits on any attempt to force Henry to do anything.” She goes on to say that this is one thing we need to take into account when considering the creation of his will.

I won’t go into any more detail as I don’t want to spoil your reading.

I found Suzannah’s reasoning compelling. I haven’t yet taken ‘sides’ as I want to re-read this book, along with the works of G.R. Elton, David Starkey and John Guy, as well as Eric Ives’ work on “the protectorate provision, before I make my mind up. I love books like this because fresh takes on a subject always leave me hungry for more and always lead me on to more research, which I love. All in all, it’s a fabulous book and anyone who is receiving it for Christmas will be delighted. I can’t say enough good things about it really! Read it!


On 28 January 1547, the sickly and obese King Henry VIII died at Whitehall. Just hours before his passing, his last will and testament had been read, stamped and sealed. The will confirmed the line of succession as Edward, Mary and Elizabeth; and, following them, the Grey and Suffolk families. It also listed bequests to the king’s most trusted councillors and servants.

Henry’s will is one of the most intriguing and contested documents in British history. Historians have disagreed over its intended meaning, its authenticity and validity, and the circumstances of its creation. As well as examining the background to the drafting of the will and describing Henry’s last days, Suzannah Lipscomb offers her own, illuminating interpretation of one of the most significant constitutional documents of the Tudor period.

Illustrated with portraits of key figures at Henry’s court, including the executors named by Henry in his will, THE KING IS DEAD is a Tudor gift book to cherish, as authoritative as it is beautiful.

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Head of Zeus (5 Nov. 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1784081922
ISBN-13: 978-1784081928

The King is Dead is available as a kindle book from (I’m not sure when the US hardback will be released) and as a kindle and hardback from Amazon UK.

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The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor by Elizabeth Norton

Posted By Claire on December 10, 2015

Temptation of Elizabeth TudorHistorian Elizabeth Norton’s latest book focuses on the years 1547-1549 when the teenage Elizabeth, the future Elizabeth I and the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, becomes embroiled in a scandal regarding Thomas Seymour, the new husband of Elizabeth’s stepmother Dowager Queen Catherine Parr.

While the book’s cover and title focus on Elizabeth, The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor is actually broader than that and gives a very detailed account of the Seymours’ rise to power, Henry VIII’s death and Edward Seymour’s protectorship, and Thomas Seymour’s rise and subsequent fall. It serves as an excellent biography of Thomas Seymour, allowing the reader to gain insight into what drove this man to do what he did. The book also offers an explanation into how and why Catherine Parr allowed her husband to have such an inappropriate relationship with her step-daughter. We’ll never know for sure what went on and how everyone felt about it, but Elizabeth Norton offers some convincing arguments. She also explores the rumours regarding Elizabeth being pregnant in 1548.

The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor brings a whole host of Tudor personalities to life, for example, the Seymour brothers, Edward VI, Elizabeth, Catherine Parr, Kate Ashley and Thomas Parry, and it is fully referenced with full citations in the notes at the end and also useful footnotes. Although it’s a non-fiction book, I really enjoyed the narrative and almost felt that I was reading a novel at times. It really was compelling reading and I congratulate Elizabeth Norton on this book. The prologue is beautifully written, setting the stage for the rest of the book and ending with the words “The Virgin Queen was born out of the ashes of his fall”, which really make you hungry to read more! I think I’ve read all of her books, but this stands out to me as the best yet and it is certainly a book I will go back to as I do my own research on the Seymours. A brilliant book.

Available in the US on Kindle and to pre-order as a hardback – click here, and as a hardback and kindle in the UK – click here.


England, late 1547. Henry VIII is dead. His 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth is living with the old king’s widow Catherine Parr and her new husband Thomas Seymour. Ambitious, charming and dangerous, Seymour begins an overt flirtation with Elizabeth that ends in her being sent away by Catherine.

When Catherine dies in autumn 1548 and Seymour is arrested for treason soon after, the scandal explodes into the open. Alone and in dreadful danger, Elizabeth is closely questioned by the king’s regency council: Was she still a virgin? Was there a child? Had she promised to marry Seymour? In her replies, she shows the shrewdness and spirit she would later be famous for. She survives the scandal. Thomas Seymour is not so lucky.

The Seymour Scandal led to the creation of the Virgin Queen. On hearing of Seymour’s beheading, Elizabeth observed ‘This day died a man of much wit, and very little judgement’. His fate remained with her. She would never allow her heart to rule her head again.

Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Head of Zeus (5 Nov. 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1784081728
ISBN-13: 978-1784081720

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Seven Will Out: A Renaissance Revel by JoAnn Spears

Posted By Claire on November 25, 2015

Seven Will OutBack in 2012, I read and reviewed JoAnn Spears’ Six of One: A Tudor Riff describing it as “a fun, rather irreverent, entertaining spoof”. I thoroughly enjoyed it because it was just so different to the usual historical fiction, and it was entertaining and cheeky.

In Six of One, the protagonist history professor Dolly was preparing to marry Henry, a man with ‘baggage’ – six ex wives, two daughters and a son, when during her bachelorette party Dolly choked, lapsed into unconsciousness, and then travelled to another plane of existence. There, she met various characters from her historical studies – women like Elizabeth of York, Margaret Beaufort, Kat Ashley, Elizabeth I, Mary I, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Queen of Scots, Bess of Hardwick etc. – before being granted an audience with Henry VIII’s six wives, who had been charged with talking to brides “facing a treacherous marital decision”. It was such a fun read so I was more than happy to read and review JoAnn’s latest book.

In Seven Will Out: A Renaissance Revel, we are reunited with Dolly and also with many of the historical characters of the first book because Dolly collapses at an awards ceremony and is whisked off to that other plane. This time, she meets, Arabella Stuart, Blanche Parry, Jane Dormer, Anne Hathaway, Lettice Knollys, Douglas Sheffield, Amy Robsart, Catherine de’ Medidic, the Grey sisters, Margaret Douglas, Helena von Snakenborg and Emilia Lanier, as well as her old friends. Last time, she found out the real truth about the fate of the Princes in the Tower and this time not only does she find out what really happened to Amy Robsart, wife of Robert Dudley who died in strange circumstances in 1560, but she also finds out who really wrote the works of William Shakespeare, and it’s not Shakespeare, Marlowe, Bacon or Oxford! One bit that really made laugh out loud was the “true” origin of Lady Macbeth’s famous line “Out, damned spot,” and who Lady Macbeth was actually modelled on.


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The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Tudor Dynasty by Barb Alexander

Posted By Claire on November 2, 2015

Tudor TutorCongratulations to Barb Alexander, who you may know from The Tudor Tutor blog, on the re-release of her book The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Tudor Dynasty. Barb originally self-published her book, back in 2013, but is has been re-released by Skyhorse Publishing with beautiful colourful illustrations by Lisa Graves, author and illustrator of History’s Witches.

In my review of Barb’s book back in 2013 I said “The Tudor Tutor book is an entertaining yet highly accurate guide to this larger-than-life royal dynasty. Barb is spot-on with her descriptions of these monarchs and their reigns, and injects humor to keep readers of all ages entertained. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone with a love of Tudor history, and also to parents and teachers who want to bring the period to life for their children” and I still stand by that. Barb is a teacher, a Tudor history buff and someone with a quick wit and wicked sense of humour. This is a winning combination, particularly when combined with Lisa’s beautiful illustrations.

Barb skilfully sums up the Tudor monarchs in a pocket-sized guide, giving readers pertinent information in an easy-to-read and highly entertaining way. She has just the right amount of “snark” and I found myself chuckling out loud at some of her comments on Henry VIII. Her style makes the book perfect for “newbies” – you know, those people you want to indoctrinate! – students, children and those who want a quick introduction to the Tudor dynasty. This is no dry, academic history book, and its information can be relied on too. Entertaining and accurate, what a relief!

The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Tudor Dynasty also includes a full list of sources used (primary and secondary) and a useful Tudor timeline.

The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Tudor Dynasty will be released tomorrow (3 November 2015) as a hardback and kindle book, and can be pre-ordered now.


From the bloody Wars of the Roses to Queen Elizabeth I’s iconic rule, the Tudor Dynasty was a period of sex, scandal, and intrigue. Monarchs such as Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I have become a part of modern pop culture, resulting in endless parodies, satires, rumors, and urban legends that grace our television screens. But as with all urban legends and parodies, facts surrounding the lives of these rulers are greatly exaggerated. In this entertaining guide, Barb Alexander serves to debunk those rumors and educate you about the dynasty.

History doesn’t have to be dry, boring, and difficult to read. As an educator, Barb knows exactly how to engage an audience. This pocket-sized guide is not only informative, but also filled with cheek, snark, and wit. With 50 beautiful illustrations that depict Tudor Monarchs and key players during their rule, this book is guaranteed to garner a chuckle or two. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the lesson. Before long, you’ll be sharing Tudor history facts that will be sure to impress your less-informed peers.

Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (November 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 163450402X
ISBN-13: 978-1634504027
Available from, Amazon UK or your usual bookstore.

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Rebellion by Livi Michael

Posted By Claire on September 25, 2015

RebellionLivi Michael’s new book Rebellion follows on from her excellent historical fiction debut, Succession, which took readers from 1444, when the Earl of Suffolk stood proxy for Henry VI at his marriage to Margaret of Anjou, to the bloody Battle of Towton in 1461 and the accession of Edward IV. The story was told through the eyes of Margaret Anjou, wife of Henry VI, and Margaret Beaufort, the future matriarch of the House of Tudor, bringing relevance and emotion to these remote historical events.

Rebellion continues these two women’s stories, opening in June 1462 and taking us through the bloody battles and family feuds that made up the Wars of the Roses, right up to the 1471 Battle of Tewkesbury and its aftermath. Again, we see the events mainly through the eyes of these two women, but there are chapters told from the perspectives of the Earl of Warwick, Duke of Somerset, Elizabeth Woodville, Henry VI and Edward IV too, and I enjoyed seeing the events from different ‘sides’. The insight, albeit fictional, into the troubled mind of Henry VI was particularly poignant.

What I enjoyed most about Rebellion was the ‘humanness’ of the characters. So often, Edward IV is depicted as a romantic hero who has the perfect romance with Elizabeth Woodville, but here he is real and flawed. He lives his life to excess and his lifestyle is catching up on him, and Elizabeth is certainly not the only woman in his life. The two Margarets are fully rounded characters. They’re both strong women willing to fight for their sons’ inheritance and safety, but there’s more to them than that. Margaret Beaufort has been separated from her beloved son and has to deal with the fact that he doesn’t know her and that he sees his guardians as parents. The writing in these scenes provoked so much empathy in me as I read them, my heart broke for her. And poor Margaret of Anjou in exile and then travelling! It seems so understandable and human that she turns to another man for comfort.

While Rebellion is an exciting account of the events of the Wars of the Roses, it was the superb writing of the poignant scenes that ‘did’ it for me. I connected with the characters, I got to know what made them tick, and I could empathise with them no matter what side they were on.

Like Succession, Rebellion has excerpts from primary sources throughout, reminding the reader that these events really did happen and bringing a real historical perspective to the story. Livi Michael ends the book with a section “About the Chronicles” in which she gives details about the primary sources she quotes in her novel. She also explains why she chose to use them in her novel, how “they convey the spirit of the age without resorting to interior perspective or reflection” and so complement the different approach to writing taken by a historical novelist. It worked!

At the start is a Lancaster and York family tree and a guide to the key characters, which will be very useful to those who are not familiar with the real history and to those who struggle with the fact that everyone seemed to have been called Margaret, Henry, Edward, Richard, William and Anne!

I highly recommend this historical novel, it’s a wonderful read but do make sure you read Succession first.

Book Details


Margaret Beaufort and Margaret of Anjou – two women who will stop at nothing to place their sons on the English throne.

In exile in France with her young son Prince Edward, Margaret of Anjou at last gives up on promises of aid by King Louis and sets sail for England. There, she will return her husband Henry to the throne – and ensure young Edward will be its heir.

Meanwhile, Margaret Beaufort, separated from her son Henry of Richmond when he was an infant, sees the unrest surrounding the Lancastrian defeat as her chance to finally get him back. But the steps she takes to return her son imperil the kingdom and the throne’s current occupant – King Edward IV.

With rebellions tearing the country apart, how far will each woman go to further the interests of their sons? And who can stand in their way?

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Penguin (13 Aug. 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0241966701
ISBN-13: 978-0241966709
Available from, Amazon UK and your usual bookstore.

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Anne Boleyn’s Sleeve: Poems by Juliana Gray

Posted By Claire on July 21, 2015

Anne Boleyns SleeveI have loved poetry since I can remember. I can’t write it for toffee, unfortunately,but I do love getting lost in it. I was, therefore, over the moon to be sent two poetry books to review recently – Ruth Stacey’s Queen, Jewel, Mistress, and Juliana Gray’s chapbook Anne Boleyn’s Sleeve.

Juliana Gray’s chabook tells Anne Boleyn’s story through verse. It begins with “The End”, a poem about Anne Boleyn’s remains being buried in the arrow chest, and then goes on to tell of Anne’s rise and fall, from Henry VIII noticing her at court right up to her execution.

Being a chapbook, it’s short (31 pages) and easily digestible. One reviewer described it as a “page-turner and bodice ripper”, which completely bemused me, as I didn’t read it like that at all. It does tell of Henry and Anne’s love and passion, but certainly not in a bodice-ripping way!

It is a very different and fresh way of learning Anne’s story and it offers insight into what she may have felt at different points in her life. It’s well worth a read if you enjoy poetry and you’re interested in Anne Boleyn’s story.

Anne Boleyn’s Sleeve won the 2013 Winged City Chapbook Press Poetry Prize and is available to order from

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