"In Bed" with Alison Weir
Tudor expert Alison Weir knows that history is suffused with indiscretions. The British royal courts described in her best-selling books often revolve around salacious gossip about who is sleeping with whom. This theme is evident in both her nonfiction works such as The Six Wives of Henry VIII and historical novels such as Captive Queen, about Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her newest book is Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings, an in-depth biography of Henry VIII's other woman, who was also rumored to have seduced his nemesis, Francis I of France. The London-born writer shares five juicy books about some of history's most renowned mistresses.
"This was the first book I ever read about a royal mistress, and it captivated me. I find some of Plaidy's later books formulaic, but this early example tells engagingly the story of 'Jane' (Elizabeth) Shore, the 'merry mistress' of Edward IV, which is set in late 15th-century England. It's not so much a bawdy tale as a riveting historical drama. It was this book that awakened me to the rich history of this period and to expand my historical research to cover the Wars of the Roses."
"Dated now, this biography was nevertheless a fine piece of historical detective work and a brave attempt to reconstruct the life of the notorious, rapacious Alice Perrers, mistress of Edward III in the 14th century. It made a tremendous impression on me, as it demonstrated how a historian could take an obscure subject and piece together fragments of information into a credible history. It's something I've since done professionally many times, but Lady of the Sun was a powerful early inspiration. I still have an early manuscript of a novel I based upon it."
"Now a classic novel, this was another early inspiration that still enchants me to this day. Anya Seton did with fiction what F. George Kay did with biography—fleshed out a few facts into an epic tale of illicit love and endurance, set against the vivid tapestry of medieval England. The book is a triumph—every sentence is a delight. Researched over four years, it remains a benchmark for historical novels and one of my all-time favorites."
"There have been numerous books on the many mistresses of Charles II, England's 'merry monarch,' but this lavishly produced catalog of portraits features a whole selection of Restoration tarts and beauties and is packed with fascinating biographies, glorious images, and anecdotes such as this: 'Pray be civil, good people,' cried pretty, witty Nell Gwyn to the angry mob surrounding her coach, thinking she was the unpopular Catholic Duchess of Portsmouth; 'I am the Protestant whore!' How they cheered."
"Mary Robinson began her career as an actress but soon became the mistress of the future Prince Regent and was never to live it down. Their brief liaison overshadowed her talents as a writer, poet, and early feminist, and it blighted her life. This compelling and beautifully written biography explores the tragedy of a woman who was so much more than just a royal mistress."
Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Books About Mistresses