One of the central themes in the life of Henry VIII was his determination to secure his dynasty with a male heir. Although it may not have turned out...moreOne of the central themes in the life of Henry VIII was his determination to secure his dynasty with a male heir. Although it may not have turned out the way he preferred; his children certainly were legends in their own rights. John Guy portraits the Tudor children in “The Children of Henry VIII” (not to be confused with Alison Weir’s work with the same title published years previous).
Focusing on Henry Fitzroy, Mary, Edward VI, and Elizabeth; Guy’s thesis is a bit lost. Although not attempting individual biographies, it isn’t clear if Guy is demonstrating the links and relationships between the siblings or of Henry’s relations with his children. Both paths are covered but in a somewhat choppy way (although the chronological study of the siblings in relation to each other at the same times is a positive characteristic).
Also surprising, is the lack of detail provided by Guy (he is usually Mr. Detail) and the short length of the book. “The Children of Henry VIII” is best described as a brief summary often times with Guy cutting topics off abruptly. The book is best for very new readers to the topic or for those simply wanting a quick reminder. This lack of detail results in “The Children of Henry VIII” reading like a YA history piece versus targeting adults. It is all unexpected coming from Guy.
Although the text is heavily notated, much of it also contains speculation with heavy “must have” and “would have” statements where Guy’s own thoughts and biases bleed through. Also unwelcome are such descriptions as calling Katherine of Aragon, “Forty, fat, with no son…” which are clearly elementary and spiteful in the bluntest sense of the word. On the other hand, Guy also includes some research and detective-heavy findings which explain events with more clarity than some other authors and also debunks some myths.
A strong note of “The Children of Henry VIII” is the focus on Henry Fitzroy. Although readers won’t learn much new information regarding the other offspring; the spotlight on the Duke of Richmond is very pleasing as he is often ignored.
Some other areas of complaint include Guy’s tendencies of striking off on tangents while stating ‘facts’ with firm conviction which several other historians have questioned as disputable and then never detailing or arguing for these comments. A reader new to the topic will take these with merit and as hard truths.
As “The Children of Henry VIII” progresses, it does noticeably increase in detail although the thesis is still hazy and seems more like a very light biography. Once again, however, no new information is discoursed making it better for new readers. The main notable aspect is that the book is very readable. It is easy-to-ready and yet flows smoothly (even though the topic is disjointed). “The Children of Henry VIII” satisfies those history lovers who are more into a novel-like flow versus a dry, scholarly piece.
The ending of “The Children of Henry VIII” is relatively memorable; however it lacks depth and detail similar to the rest of the book. The work remains unclear in its “point” and continues to be firmly called a summary as it does not bring the Tudors to life and doesn’t necessarily explore new information.
“The Children of Henry VIII” contains illustrations throughout the text plus color plates. The sources used are respectfully credible and include many primary works. However, the notes aren’t quite annotated.
Unfortunately, not much can be said about Guy’s work as it is so ‘light’. “The Children of Henry VIII” isn’t terrible; it merely lacks detail and depth common to Guy’s works. It is a quick 1-day read and best for intro readers to the Tudor dynasty who don’t want to be overwhelmed with facts. Although a love-her-or-hate-her author; I much recommend Alison Weir’s “The Children of Henry VIII” over John Guy’s piece. (less)
For us Tudorphiles, there really isn’t anything we don’t already know about one of history’s most dramatic families. So what’s the point of reading an...moreFor us Tudorphiles, there really isn’t anything we don’t already know about one of history’s most dramatic families. So what’s the point of reading another book on the Tudor dynasty? Perhaps this can be answered by Leanda de Lisle in “Tudor: The Family Story”.
Lisle’s version of events in “Tudor” stands out instantly, as the tone presented to the reader is not simply that of a recollection of Tudor monarchy life; but the basics and underlying psychosis of the family. Lisle begins the history backtracking to Owen Tudor and his “fall” into royalty. Although nothing new is learned by the expert reader; the family history will be understood in a new light. Lisle reveals the Tudors in a smooth way in which their emotions and actions throughout the decades make clear sense. Thus, although the story isn’t new, the fresh perception is.
Lisle’s text is heavily researched and accurate, skipping the biases and speculation which are abundant even in the works of renowned historians. The pace is exciting and has a steady ratio of almost-fictional narrative to that of an academic piece. However, at times Lisle goes off on the flowery descriptions and either grazes or rushes too quickly on the historical events (I suspect that she could produce a solid HF novel).
A notable characteristic of “Tudor” is the breath of life Lisle gives to some figures who are often ignored such as Mary and Margaret Tudor (the sisters of Henry VIII) and Margaret Douglas. Plus, the chronology is solid and all major points are highlighted without jumping back-and-forth which could confuse new readers.
Lisle seamlessly interweaves the text with descriptions of ‘everyday’ life/culture which instead of feeling like tangents; clearly sets the stage for Tudor lie and again: makes everything clear and understandable. “Tudor” is also filled with anticipation, with even the seasoned Tudorphile wanting to know what happens (even though he or she already knows).
On the negative end, Lisle has the habit of mentioning a thought or idea which is contrary to popular belief but doesn’t elaborate or offer clear sources. I would welcome new angles but need details. Also slightly annoying is Lisle maintaining the trend of quoting Shakespeare within her historic text. Shakespeare was NOT a historian and his plays were just that: plays. Not sure why so many authors insist on this.
The second half of “Tudor” has more of a detective focus with Lisle debunking some much-talked about Tudor myths. The only issue with this is a lack of description/argument and notes with holes in the connection (I had many, “You got this from that?!” moments). Despite this, Lisle also displayed the strength of not following stereotypes in “Tudor”: Mary isn’t vilified, Elizabeth isn’t glorified, etc. Instead, Lisle simply sees the strengths and weaknesses of each figurehead.
The conclusion of “Tudor” is exceptionally strong, wrapping up Elizabeth’s reign (but again, not overly romanticizing her); flowing into a memorable, well-rounded Epilogue in which Lisle truly brings home the Tudor message in a way not many history books have. Lisle doesn’t just stop there, as she briefly discusses some Tudor myths in the Appendices. For those readers who enjoy notes, Lisle offers pages worth while also serving up color plates and genealogical trees.
Even though one may not experience new information on the pages of “Tudor”, the presentation is entirely new. Versus a straightforward look at Tudor history, Lisle opens up the personal view of the Tudors and how THEY viewed themselves which explains their actions better then a simple look at their political actions. Lisle successfully treads a middle ground where readers both new and old to the topic will find enjoyment. “Tudor” is well-written and extremely readable with Lisle showing a marked improvement in her writing (it is obvious that she has more great things in store). Although not perfect, “Tudor” is very much recommended for anyone and everyone interested in the topic.
Note: My rating is more of a 4.5 but rounded to 4 versus 5 (less)
Christina, Queen of Sweden is doomed to forever be known as the cross-dressing queen who abdicated her Protestant throne and turned to Catholicism. Ve...moreChristina, Queen of Sweden is doomed to forever be known as the cross-dressing queen who abdicated her Protestant throne and turned to Catholicism. Veronica Buckley explores the quirks of Christina’s personality in “Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric”.
Few books exist revolving around Queen Christina which puts a lot of pressure on Buckley’s writing skills. Luckily, Buckley’s language and flow are smooth, beautiful, and well-written. However, the beginning of “Christina, Queen of Sweden” requires a little kick-start, due to the focus being more on the political landscape and overall background of Sweden than on Christina.
Once the attention is on Christina, Buckley’s writing becomes more alive. The detail is meticulous and the reader truly gets a grasp for the events in Christina’s life, even as a child. This is supplemented by an almost memoir-like feel as Buckley tells the biography with an extensive amount of quotes from Christina. Even though these are from Christina speaking in hindsight, which always tampers with the views; it is still an open door into her psyche (although small).
On the other hand, Buckley is guilty of inconsistency with the inclination of going off on tangents and also back-tracking with chronology which causes both distraction and confusion. Plus, often times too much detail is given to seemingly unimportant events while more heavy moments are glossed over leaving some unanswered questions.
Another negative is Buckley’s story-telling which is more of a historical re-telling versus having the reader truly feel the events, recreated. This slows the pace. Not to mention, new information isn’t revealed. Yet, Buckley doesn’t take this as the green light for speculation or bias, which is kept to a minimum.
As “Christina, Queen of Sweden” progresses, Buckley’s writing becomes more flowery, descriptive, and narrative which is a pleasant departure from some of the dryness evident in the other parts of the work. This show Buckley’s versatility and begs for a penned historical fiction novel on Christina.
Sadly, the climatic event of Christina’s abdication of the throne lacks enlightenment. This would have been the opportune moment for Buckley to venture at Christina’s thoughts as most people seek crowns versus walk away from them and therefore, readers are curious at Christina’s inner-thoughts. Perhaps source do not exist on the matter but it is still a let-down.
About three-quarters through, “Christina, Queen of Sweden” drags and loses ‘oomph’. Although Christina’s life events are still odd/exciting enough to garner attention; Buckley seemingly loses passion which seeps through on her writing and slows the pace and strength of the work. This slower momentum continues to the end of “Christina, Queen of Sweden” which overly focuses on Rome and Papal events which is tiresome for those not interested in the topic. Queen Christina feels almost like a side-note at this point.
The conclusion of “Christina, Queen of Sweden” is surprisingly memorable as her funeral is described and Buckley waxes poetic about Christina’s persona. The reader will feel some sentiment and emotion; however, this sudden boost of energy doesn’t make sense with much of the previous flat text.
Overall, “Christina, Queen of Sweden” is not terribly written and is a good look at Christina’s life. Plus, it attracts history buffs with colorplates (although black and white) and suitable notes and sourced books. However, it solely teaches what Christina endured versus who she was and therefore the work contains closed windows. It does spark interest, though; and Buckley could satisfyingly pen a HF novel concerning Christina. Although not a prize history-biography, “Christina, Queen of Sweden” is suitable for those interested in queens. (less)
Even though the Tudors are known for their drama-filled (albeit, somewhat short) dynasty; there was already a family making waves before them: the Pla...moreEven though the Tudors are known for their drama-filled (albeit, somewhat short) dynasty; there was already a family making waves before them: the Plantagenets. Dan Jones explains those historical figures who paved the road for England in, “The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England”.
Jones states in his introduction to “The Plantagenets” that his work follows that of a narrative history. This means that although less scholarly and academic; one can at least hope for an exciting (almost fiction-like) sweep of events. This, however, would be a false expectation for “The Plantagenets”. Not only is Jones’s writing shallow in the academic realm, but it isn’t heart-thumping either.
Jones has a poorly-written, flat style which follows a “Person A did this and then that”-style. The flow is unnatural, the reader is not engaged, and the historical figures are not revealed. “The Plantagenets” doesn’t feature any new information while also being deadpan about the information it does give. Furthermore, the chapters in “The Plantagenets” are short and abrupt. Don’t expect an overall history of the Plantagenets as the format is one which instead focuses on one key figure or event per chapter. Although chronological, Jones doesn’t dive deep enough, cuts off the chapters too quickly, and has a choppy presentation. This leaves the reader with many unanswered questions.
Jones is also guilty of filling his text with speculation and phrases divulging what figures “thought”. Unless he has access to top-secret diaries, he does NOT know what anyone thought. Not to mention, information which does sound solid is not properly sourced with facts mentioned similar to, “A contemporary stated…” but the contemporary is never detailed. To say the least, much of “The Plantagenets” is an overview and one which doesn’t even feel credible.
As “The Plantagenets” progresses, Jones finds a more confident path in his storytelling. However, the text is merely that: a retelling of events which reads like a high school student’s history report. Plus, the work is inconsistent with some chapters being exponentially more interesting than others (which also demonstrates Jones’s own biases).
The second half of “The Plantagenets” is markedly better with its focus on Edward II and Edward III. The text flows much more smoothly and is more compelling than earlier chapters. Even despite this minor momentum kick, however; Jones’s work contains blatant errors (which the seasoned history reader will catch), plus some repetition in storytelling. Jones also insists on quoting secondary sources, again making the work feel like a “recap”.
These negative points roll into an overly-rushed conclusion which instead of detailing the drama between Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke in a memorable way; instead focuses more on Jones’s clear dislike for Richard. The epilogue of “The Plantagenets” also fails to sum-up the work in a resonating way.
For staunch history lovers, “The Plantagenets” lacks proper citation notes and sources with only a brief (and somewhat unclear) list of suggested “further reading”. A section of color plates exists but in black and white and again: lacking detail.
Sadly, “The Plantagenets” was a huge let down and is only suggested for those new to the topic seeking a lighter fair versus historical depth. The storytelling is weak and inaccuracies exist which should be kept in mind when reading “The Plantagenets”. I might consider the author again but only as a book I would skim and wouldn’t be jumping over hurdles for it. (less)
It appears that as of late, there is a boost of interest in the reigns of Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry VII (which is certainly not a bad thing)....moreIt appears that as of late, there is a boost of interest in the reigns of Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry VII (which is certainly not a bad thing). This brings with it a curiosity in the lesser-discussed female figures of these times. One of these is Elizabeth of York. Alison Weir attempts to reveal some Henry VII’s Queen in, “Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World”.
The Subtitle to “Elizabeth of York” is truly fitting as Weir’s work is really about Elizabeth’s ‘world’ versus about Elizabeth, herself. Granted, not much information exists (no diaries, few letters, etc). As a result, Weir mostly describes the people and events surrounding Elizabeth instead of presenting a true biography revealing the inner psyche, as the book claims to do. Thus, what is formulated is a slow work with an emphasis on “would be”, “could have been”, “possibly”, and “maybe” phrases. “Elizabeth of York” is more speculative than Weir’s work on Mary Boleyn and is very frustrating.
“Elizabeth of York” doesn’t begin to quicken the pace until about 100 pages in. Elizabeth still feels like afterthought, but at least at this point Weir begins to describe some detective work and debunk a few myths. However, be cautious with her myth busting; as Weir’s descriptions aren’t 100% convincing or explored and takes on a sort of, “I believe it, so should you”, tone. At the same time, Weir displays less biases than usual in her work which makes “Elizabeth of York” more readable (unless you are a Ricardian because she is still anti-Richard).
Weir is also guilty of some inconsistencies and double-standards. For instance, Weir stated that a document written 20 years after an event took place is hardly credible but when another document written almost 20 years later suited her stance, she claimed that the writer’s memory could still be in tact. Hmmm…
Despite these issues with the content and format, “Elizabeth of York” flows well in terms of writing style and is a good introduction for those new to the topic but contain some debate points that a more-versed reader will be interested in (but again, these mostly concern the time period versus Elizabeth). In fact, although anything by any author of current day is debatable; Weir does make some very strong points which are well-argued and shed some light on areas in a way which readers may not have previously considered and thus resulting in ‘ah ha!’ moments.
It isn’t until approximately page 200 until Elizabeth receives more of a focus. Even then, it is more external with a look at her role and its effects (or lack thereof) instead of at her actual person. This information simply does not exist. Weir therefore supplements “Elizabeth of York” with many details of privy purse spending, household accounts, gifts received, etc. This causes the momentum to be lost and for the writing to feel stretched out. Although this is a regular trait of Weir’s writing; it isn’t as extensive as many of her other books and should thus please those who dislike details.
Towards the conclusion of “Elizabeth of York”, Weir annoyingly concludes sections with, “Elizabeth would not live to see this…” We get it! She will die soon! This is supposed to be a biography; stop with the odd foreshadowing! This is compounded by the weak ending in which Weir attempts to create a legend out of Elizabeth and show her impact but fails to do so because none of this was demonstrated throughout the hundreds of pages in the book.
On the other hand, the appendices are actually quite interesting (more so than much of the book), color plates are available (although they are at the end versus the middle and not on glossy paper), and a credible list of sources and notes are presented which strengthens the work.
Sadly, Elizabeth continues to be a mysterious figure whether due to a lack of sources or an absence of personal drama. Weir doesn’t bring her to life (hardly even mentions her in ratio to the number of pages) and “Elizabeth of York” suffers from over-speculation and tangents. I am a Weir fan of over a decade but “Elizabeth of York” is a feeble piece. The book is recommended for a Woodville/Edward IV/Henry VII refresher course but don’t expect much on Elizabeth. For those readers who are well-read on the topic: don’t rush for this one. (less)
Love her or hate her, Anne Boleyn is here to stay – even centuries after her execution. How much do we actually know about her is another story entire...moreLove her or hate her, Anne Boleyn is here to stay – even centuries after her execution. How much do we actually know about her is another story entirely: one which Susan Bordo attempts to capture in “The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen”.
Bordo’s “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” is not a typical history piece and certainly not a biography. It instead combines elements of a cultural study, history, social history, psychology, and academic argument into one work. Although the first section of “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” recaps common myths surrounding Anne, Henry VIII, and Anne & Henry as a couple; it is not detailed enough for readers new to the topic, who as a result, would be at a loss with the events, authors mentioned, rumors exposed, etc. Therefore, it is best suited for readers with knowledge on the Tudor reign.
“The Creation of Anne Boleyn” instantly suffers from some problems. Most noticeable is Bordo’s constant argument that individuals incorrectly judge Anne’s behaviors based on the morals of modern day rules. Yet, she then compares those same behaviors with modern similes in order to better acquaint the reader with their importance. This is hypocritical. Furthermore, although Bordo attempts to discredit other authors and theories, she doesn’t fully back up her own statements and is equally guilty of the biases and behaviors of those she is accusing (bluntly: Bordo lacks some academic value and is a bit too haughty in her views). Another issue is with repetition, where Bordo tends to drift off and then repeat recent ideas.
On the plus side, it is refreshing that Bordo is US-based so the view of Anne is from a unique/different angle from that of a staunch British author. This also gives “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” a fresh and modern feel. The book is inviting for those who subscribe to the school of thought that Henry was too strong of a personality to be ‘whipped’ by any female and thus Anne wasn’t some bewitching sexpot but merely the subject of Henry’s first lustful, obsessive, infatuation; as this appears to be the main thesis of Bordo’s work.
Although “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” is understandably a cultural study; the constant references to such modern Tudor-pieces as “The Tudors” television series is overused and weakens some of the text. However, Bordo doesn’t claim to lead a purely academic debate and does successfully raise many compelling and suggestive arguments revolving around well-known theories, which whether for or against, provoke deep thinking with the reader. This also encourages slower reading to “take it all in” versus just rushing through the book.
The second section of “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” outlines and discusses the various incarnates of Anne throughout history in a multitude of outlets. This is not only quite in-depth but also interesting. However, Bordo is guilty of composition/arguments likened to that of a college paper, at times. First of all, it is clear that she isn’t a historian and “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” feels like a gender ideology university assignment where Bordo merely picked Anne as a focal point. Second, there are times when Bordo presents a quote but crops it or fine-tunes it to prove her point (much like a journalist).
The third section continues on the route of various portrayals of Anne (mostly with pop culture references and other present day-takes); and is also interesting but heavily feels gossipy, provoking of a fight, and like a bashing of authors (from both Bordo and other authors). Although I am not a strong proponent of Philippa Gregory and so I agreed with Bordo’s opinions on her (she supports Robin Maxwell whom I dislike as much as PG); the insults were too much and this portion of the book felt childish, pointless, and lacking merit. In fact, Bordo comes off as arrogant and calls herself an “Anne Boleyn Scholar” while she, herself, is new to the topic and is less versed than I am! Take that, Bordo!
Luckily, this turns around when Bordo discusses why the portrayals of Anne occur in relation to ideologies, cultures, and feminism. Sadly, this is only expressed on a few pages and begs for extension. This spins into why people love Anne today based on these deeper psychologies and thus ends “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” on a strong note. Also pleasing are the amount of primary and secondary sources by Bordo, plus her offered notes.
“The Creation of Anne Boleyn” is not a terrible book. It has a strong premise with a unique angle which clearly exemplifies Bordo’s ardor on the topic. However, it begs for more meat, some clarity, and editing making it obvious that this is Bordo’s first foray into the topic. Although “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” didn’t blow me away and I expected a bit more, I do recommend it for fellow Tudorphiles or those interested in Anne Boleyn.
I would like to note that the author rudely addressed me as I asked an another author if Susan mentioning the author in her book effected her review. Susan jumped on me for questioning the said author's review and also implied that I lied that she called herself an "Anne Boleyn scholar" (if I had the book, I would quote the page). Her tone and way of addressing me puts a sour taste in my mouth and thus I will never recommend her work.(less)
Sadly, most people (even Anglophiles) are less versed with the Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods of English rule. Some may have heard of Emma of Normandy...moreSadly, most people (even Anglophiles) are less versed with the Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods of English rule. Some may have heard of Emma of Normandy but only because she is the mother of Edward the Confessor. Patricia Bracewell attempts to remedy Emma’s silence in “Shadow on the Crown”.
“Shadow on the Crown” begins in a slightly overwhelming manner, as a surplus of characters are introduced within alternating chapters/viewpoints making it somewhat difficult to immediately feel a connection or grasp to the story. However, this settles with novel progression and becomes more welcoming. Bracewell also shows some inconsistency (only initially) with an almost forced attempt to be overly literary and descriptive but she finds a happy medium and supplements this with an added intrigue and raw storytelling. The reader feels the story come alive with an ominous foreboding (in a positive way) which keeps pages turning.
Although “Shadow on the Crown” portrays many characters, each has his/her own personality and voice with ample development and without excessively predictable personalities. Bracewell allows the reader to peel layers and facets concerning each character.
With each chapter’s progression, “Shadow on the Crown” becomes more compelling and harder to put down. This may be due to Emma’s (the main character) likeability and attraction which grows with the story; and also due to “Shadow on the Crown” not being cheesy or predictable like many other historical fiction novels. In fact, some moments are too believable and raw, even causing disgust for its brutality but that just demonstrates how convincing Bracewell is.
“Shadow on the Crown” has a fast pace and is a moving, easy-to-read, quick novel and yet is not shallow or limp. For instance, the romance between Emma and Atheslstan is not explored deeply or mainly focused on which makes “Shadow on the Crown” stand out amongst other historical fiction novels which have too much romantic overture.
The conclusion of “Shadow on the Crown” is strong and memorable, solidly answering enough questions but still paving the way for Bracewell’s next installment.
Overall, I would have preferred a more intimate look at Emma which was slightly minimized due to the multiple character viewpoints. Also missing was a genealogical chart which could have been helpful. On the contrary, I generally don’t like historical fiction novels which are more fiction than history (fluff) , yet although Bracewell admits to this being the case with her novel (again, due to the lack of sources); I still found the novel satisfying as it felt so real and encourages further research.
“Shadow on the Crown” is a delicious and engaging HF novel and will leave the reader itching for the next book.
On a less important note: I enjoyed the text font which is very medieval in style and adds to the “realness” of the story. I enjoy small details! (less)
One of the biggest open windows into the lives of royal figures is the letters written by their own hands (since we clearly can’t travel back into tim...moreOne of the biggest open windows into the lives of royal figures is the letters written by their own hands (since we clearly can’t travel back into time to actually converse with them personally). Anne Crawford, a former Assistant Keeper at the Public Record Office, compiled some letters (and biographies) of some of the Queens (or Queen Mothers) in “Letters of the Queens of England”.
Crawford introduces “Letter’s of the Queens of England” by announcing to the readers that some of the figures portrayed have more letters available than others which resulted in having to decide which would be more valuable to use/include in the anthology. Conversely, some Queens left no letters behind but were included with biographical coverage in order to provide a comprehensive look at these women. This explanation provided a clear insight into what to expect in “Letters of the Queens of England” and was thus, well appreciated.
The introduction also includes facts regarding when signatures were first used, which languages (and why) letters were written in, fertility rates, and marriages and is therefore a great queenship introduction to the average reader. Crawford immediately demonstrates intelligence and passion concerning the topic.
“Letters of the Queens of England” is divided into five sections (Norman Queens, Angevin Queens, Plantagenet, Lancastrian & York, and Tudor) which allows for readers to pick and choose their queens of interest. For those opting to read the text through, the chronology makes sense and is smooth. This can also be said about the writing style which is clearly well-researched but not overly scholarly (more of a brief look) resulting in an interesting and well-paced read.
At times, the abundance of names and figures can become difficult to handle especially for those readers unfamiliar with the histories. Crawford does provide genealogical charts and marriage tables in the appendix which helps to sort through the cluster.
Although it is effective and revealing to read letters written by queens; some of Crawford’s biases do bleed though regarding each queen, meaning that it is clear what image is being attempted to define each female and the message that is being reinforced with each letter (although the letters’ contexts are also described). Luckily, these opinions aren’t overly pushed down one’s throat (but they are still obvious).
“Letters of the Queens of England” becomes a bit repetitious and dry as each section describes the same elements of each queen’s life and the information therefore runs together without standout moments. On another negative note, “Letters of the Queens of England” also contains some inaccurate information. However, most were minor and the accuracy overall is acceptable. Although, some of these errors question the editor of the book (for example: Lady Rochford –Jane Boleyn—being called Anne).
Although purely personal, I would have preferred Crawford to have used a different font for the actual letters for ease of quick differentiation of the passages.
Overall, “Letters of the Queens of England” is a terrific resource for those doing research on specific queens and wanting to cite their letters in full. Plus, the content is certainly interesting for Anglophiles and is accessible and interesting with a better insight into the lives of these women. “Letters of the Queens of England” is suggested for royalty-lovers. (less)
Each of Henry VIII’s wives had a personal fate to be remembered by. Katherine Parr is remembered as the matronly one who took care of Henry and attemp...moreEach of Henry VIII’s wives had a personal fate to be remembered by. Katherine Parr is remembered as the matronly one who took care of Henry and attempted to further the Reformist cause (a portrayal which isn’t entirely correct) and then married the rogue Thomas Seymour. Elizabeth Femantle tells Katherine’s version of events in “Queen’s Gambit”.
“Queen’s Gambit” instantly opens with historical fluff and inaccuracies which sets the tone of a historical recreation novel versus an emphasis on accuracy. This is discouraging for those readers who seek more history than fiction in HF novels. On the other hand, Fremantle’s dialogue and text style is accurate with the times versus being modern and also carries a level of eloquence. However, this is off-put by an overemphasized effort towards flowery phrases and literary means, which falls short.
The plot of “Queen’s Gambit” is flat early on with a slow pace. The novel follows a heavy “As you know, Bob”- style meaning that pages pass with the characters merely recalling events or discussing other figures with a lack of any activity or actually “living” proceedings. This creates dull text and a slow story.
Speaking of characters; none seem properly introduced or developed which results in a thick veil when attempting to get to know them. Katherine feels far away which is disappointing as the novel is expected to reveal her inner thoughts and psyche. Fremantle’s portrayal of Katherine is tight and constrained while surprisingly, she is much more ‘loose’ with other characters such as Dot (Katherine’s maid) and even Henry. In fact, “Queen’s Gambit” is told through both Katherine and Dot’s eyes with Dot’s being more ‘real’ due to a more relaxed storytelling.
Elaborating on reality; “Queen’s Gambit” questions believability early on and suffers from development issues such as Katherine falling in love with Thomas Seymour after only one conversation with him (this is stretching it even in a world of courtly love). Fremantle therefore misses ample opportunities of event and character building, making the plot of “Queen’s Gambit” aloof.
“Queen’s Gambit” monumentally improves approximately half-way through upon Katherine’s marriage to Henry. Although there is still too much talk of activity versus partaking in it; the drama does increase. It seems that Fremantle gains some confidence as the story progresses. This strength continues as the plot thickens with a religious focus and Katherine’s reformist views. This plot focus is a refreshing take versus the romantic side of the story and encourages turning of the pages. However, Katherine is still not truly unveiled as a character and one doesn’t feel as though he/she truly ‘knows’ her.
Also positive is the historical accuracy of the smaller details such as court etiquette and decorum, sumptuary laws, decorations, etc. Although there are some errors such as the emphasis on Katherine having lice when the Tudors had fleas but lice was considered lowly and higher social classes did not generally have them.
An incident occurs three-quarters way through which is complete ludicrous and will anger readers striving for historical accuracy (sadly, general readers will believe this angle). Luckily, this is dropped rather quickly and not explored. Similarly, the ending of “Queen’s Gambit” is weaker than expected; still not truly presenting a true sense of Katherine but at least being quite accurate historically.
For less versed readers, Fremantle includes a character list and a list of important Tudor dates. Although helpful to the general reader, this would be better suited in the beginning and also supplemented with a thorough author’s note describing the historical liberties taken as this was barely addressed by Fremantle.
Extra Notes:Noticeable to readers is a lack of proper chapter breaks with each stretching far too long causing both a lag and an inability of the story to ‘breathe’. Also, the entire book addressing Katherine’s sister as “Sister Anne” is INCREDIBLY annoying.
Overall, “Queen’s Gambit” begins slowly with historical fluff but finds its footing and momentum, turning into a decent novel. Although one-dimensional storytelling and a lack of truly getting to know Katherine is maintained; Fremantle does include strong historical effects. One can see potential despite first-novel jitters so I would read Fremantle again to see how she fairs. “Queen’s Gambit” isn’t terrible but not a masterpiece, either. It is worth reading for those interested in Henry’s wives and the lesser focused on: Katherine Parr.
I was torn between 2 or 3 and went with 3 so perhaps 2.5(less)
Outshined by the Battle of Bosworth, Henry VII, and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty and her son own, the future King Henry VIII; Elizabeth of York...moreOutshined by the Battle of Bosworth, Henry VII, and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty and her son own, the future King Henry VIII; Elizabeth of York has a seemingly quiet voice in history. Philippa Gregory attempts to strengthen her cry in “The White Princes”, the final book in the “Cousins’ War” series.
I am not a fan of Gregory’s claims of historical accuracy and I compare her novels to the same realm as Carolly Erikson’s “historical entertainments”. Therefore, I don’t expect much historically and ‘go into’ her novels expecting merely a ‘fun’ and ‘fluffy’ read. However, even I didn’t expect what met me with “The White Princess”.
The novel begins with a slow and bland pace, extremely inaccurate fluff, and ample doses of witchcraft which is a prominent theme in the series. All this by only page 25! Continuing with extreme fiction (Elizabeth raped by Henry encouraged by his mother); Gregory tries much too hard to be racy and controversial. Granted, “The White Princess” is a fictional novel so Gregory has the right to impose such plots; however, these could have been spread out versus throwing it at the reader all at once which decreases believability and just appears pathetic. This attempt at excitement doesn’t mesh well with the characters that are poorly developed and flat.
The pace in “The White Princess” is inconsistent as some sections are dull and drag while others are somewhat more entertaining. Gregory’s writing style is also elementary, lacking any literary tact and feels much too modern. This also inhibits the above-mentioned believability and reduces the urge to “care” about what happens.
Gregory implores her first-person narrative preference which in turn induces the “As you know Bob…” method to explain historical back stories. Plus, as common in the other books in the series, each character constantly refers to other by title (this isn’t how natural conversations flow) which is much too dummied down and geared for the mass audiences. Not to mention, Elizabeth persistently calling Richard III “my lover” is not only speculation but annoying, as well.
“The White Princess” is certainly pro-Ricardian and presents Henry II as a terrible husband. Although I give credit to Gregory for going outside the box and offering alternate views; this is also forced and much too over the top. “The White Princess” is more fiction than history and is basically YA fiction, at that. As the “The White Princess” progresses, it does become more tolerable with Gregory creating an area of tension surrounding Henry and pretender to the throne.
Sadly, “The White Princess” takes another lagging turn halfway through with focus on events but not actually partaking in them, resulting in a slow and boring story. Elizabeth’s characterization is much too underdeveloped and is shown basically as a “stupid” girl while Henry is a vile tyrant. Gregory is also guilty of confusing comments such as saying Elizabeth Woodville’s abbey home is “beautiful” but then a “prison” and then “lovely and she is well served”. Make up your mind, Gregory!
Not much occurs until about three-quarters through as the novel is very repetitive and repeats the same events and actions in new way. Nothing is truly “felt”. Although, there is a showdown between Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth which is not only climatic but also causes the reader to re-think Margaret’s personality and actions and encourages further research/thinking.
The conclusion of “The White Princess” is weak and focuses mostly on a Gregory-created curse that Elizabeth and her mother fictitiously cast which results (in Gregory’s eyes) in the real-life ending of the Tudor dynasty with Elizabeth I. It is guaranteed that general readers will believe such fluff. The entire novel is empty and is dragged out with a lack of real events. Much of the text is repetition and could be omitted. Furthermore, “The White Princess” is misleading as it barely focuses on Elizabeth and she is a weak character, overall. At least the novel does encourage further reading regarding the Tudor throne pretenders and the Princes in the Tower.
Gregory’s “Author’s Note” is only about a page in length and barely acknowledges her massive number of historical liberties and historical errors. Again, this contributes to uneducated readers taking her word as fact. As mentioned, I agree that Gregory has the freedom to write fiction but she writes “alternate histories” and it should be marketed as such.
Although the entire “Cousins’ War” series is rather poor; “The White Princes” has terrible writing, repetition, undeveloped characters, a lack of believability, too many historical errors, and the list goes on. Basically: it stinks worse that the chamber pots dumped into the London streets of Tudor England.
Note: If each reader received a nickel for every time Elizabeth says “I don’t know” or “My cousin, Maggie” in the novel; we would all be rich. (less)