There are countless books on the subject of Queen Elizabeth I and/or her reign. The Gloriana is certainly glorious. However, less of these books focusThere are countless books on the subject of Queen Elizabeth I and/or her reign. The Gloriana is certainly glorious. However, less of these books focus on Elizabeth’s personal life in terms of her feelings, bed, and body. Anna Whitelock explores this underworld in, “The Queen’s Bed: An Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court”.
Having read and enjoyed Whitelock’s biography of Mary Tudor; I was immediately let-down by “The Queen’s Bed”. The work begins with a prologue which feels out of place as the first chapter also feels like an introduction, therefore setting up choppiness and a disjointed text which is (sadly) maintained throughout. Whitelock is applauded for attempting to reveal Elizabeth’s inner rooms (literally) and her personal, somewhat gossipy, life; but there is simply not enough information available to create a strong work.
“The Queen’s Bed” is not a chronological biography of Queen Elizabeth with each chapter instead focusing more-so on a singular topic/event which results in a repetition of facts and a segmented work. The text is recommended more for those searching for historical indexed facts versus those seeking a historical-narrative flow. Adding a dry writing style to this already weak book creates a piece which fails to be compelling or hold reader attention.
Expanding on this, Whitelock is guilty of simply retelling facts in a bland and rehearsed way without any emotion behind them. Who knew Elizabeth could be boring? Plus, although the text is notated and heavily researched; Whitelock doesn’t elaborate on the facts, making the work more of a summary versus anything in-depth.
On the positive end, Whitelock’s text is easy-to-understand and is accessible and is thus ideal for those new to the topic. Meanwhile, she also presents some facts and details which are new even for well-versed readers. The biggest highlight is that Whitelock truly represents Elizabeth as ‘human’ and a woman instead of blowing her up into a goddess-like entity like so many other authors do. The reader will truly grasp Elizabeth’s weaknesses and see how these affected her governmental policies.
On the negative front, however; “The Queen’s Bed” mostly focuses on the back-and-forth battle between Elizabeth and her Parliament regarding her absentee marriage and lack of heirs. This is the focus of too many pages and is a SNOOZE FEST.
The pace does increase approximately halfway through especially with the descriptions of the intrigues of Cecil’s and Walsingham’s foreign intelligence and spy networks; however, these somewhat lose the connection to Whitelock’s thesis (her connection is merely that murder plots were made on Elizabeth’s ‘body’). Once again, each chapter is heavily disjointed from the previous. In fact, “The Queen’s Bed” becomes so choppy that it is difficult to read straight through, at times.
Notably, the conclusion of “The Queen’s Bed” is strong and engaging with a focus on Elizabeth’s body pre-and-post death plus showcasing the propaganda surrounding both her physical and sexual selves during the time of her funeral and modern, social times. In this manner, Whitelock wraps up the text well.
“The Queen’s Body” satisfies history lovers with detailed notes, a bibliography, and a section of color plates. However, it should be noted that Whitelock uses some of the same quotes throughout the work to support various arguments. Plus, the copy editor, who is thanked in the acknowledgments, isn’t very meticulous as the book contains grammar and punctuation errors. A LARGE error, on page 305, has the first and second paragraphs starting out with the same sentences! It is quite astonishing that this wasn’t caught. Also, although Whitelock lives in England, the overuse of “whilst” was annoying as a US reader.
Even though the concept and thesis of Whitelock’s work, which attempts to show the relations between Elizabeth’s personal and political bodies is a unique one; “The Queen’s Bed” simply doesn’t capture this. The text is choppy, slow, and repetitive with many inconsistencies. With that being said, it isn’t terrible; just not an entirely engrossing or mind-blowing work. Having enjoyed Whitelock’s biography of Mary Tudor; I would read another Whitelock book in order to gauge if this was a fluke due to the topic. “The Queen’s Bed” is not a bad read for Elizabeth and history lovers, but again: not an amazing one, either. ...more
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).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). 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. ...more
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 entireLove 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....more
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 timOne 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. ...more
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 attempEach 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...more
Tudor England fans are quite aware of King Henry VIII’s decline from charming prince to the brute and even irrational King of his later days. What isTudor England fans are quite aware of King Henry VIII’s decline from charming prince to the brute and even irrational King of his later days. What is unknown is the cause of this about-face. Was it pure narcissism? Perhaps mental deterioration due to a blow to the head? Maybe it was paranoia. Kyra Cornelius Kramer puts forth a new theory: that all of Henry’s mental defects and the obstetrical losses suffered by his wives were a result of him being Kell positive and consequently suffering from McLeod Syndrome. Kramer explores this theory in, “Blood Will Tell: A Medical Explanation of the Tyranny of Henry VIII”.
The premise of “Blood Will Tell” is truly unique amongst the plethora of Tudor England saturated book shelves; but sadly Kramer fails to deliver on what could be an exceptional account. Kramer strategically divides the chapters of “Blood Will Tell” into thematic focal points versus just a chronological biography in order to debunk myths and argue that Henry’s behaviors were a result of Kell positive blood and McLeod syndrome.
The problem is not with this outline style but with the writing, itself. Kramer’s prose is no better than a college term paper (and not a very good one, at that); lacking gripping text, being quite repetitive, and missing sound arguments to discuss her hypothesis. Kramer’s guilty of mentioning her ideas briefly but then quickly moving on without elaborating or providing case studies. Even though her premise is acknowledged; her execution is poor and not persuasive at all.
On a related note, Kramer also drags “Blood Will Tell” on an overabundance of tangents. Much of the text is a recap of Henry’s reign and the lives of his wives (not a very detailed one) versus focusing on the health aspects or the Kell and McLeod theory. There are many moments when the readers’ eyes glaze over and Kramer seemingly forgot her main topic. In fact, if the pages on other subjects were stripped away; “Blood Will Tell” would probably be only about 50 pages long.
“Blood Will Tell” also suffers from strong biases (Kramer clearly things Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were angels while Henry was a tyrant) and a large amount of speculation with “must have” and “could have” statements. Furthermore, Kramer tries too hard to be humorous and overly familiar at times which has no place in a medical history text. Plus, Kramer often intersperses “Blood Will Tell” with slight jabs at historians or Tudor England aficionados which demonstrate her ego as she has degrees in the medical fields with nothing related to history on her resume.
There are some strong points in “Blood Will Tell” especially slightly past the halfway point in which Kramer focuses on her theory and provides more exploration. Sadly, these are few and far between and don’t work to save the struggle of “Blood Will Tell”.
Instead of strengthening her argument as “Blood Will Tell” progresses; Kramer unfortunately becomes weaker hardly mentioning her theory at all and basically just asserting (in more or less words) that it is the way it is because she thinks it to be so. Yet, she mentions events in Henry’s life which don’t fit her view but simply says these are exceptions and then moves on. This is not very captivating, to say the least. Kramer also increases her name calling of Henry and his courtiers (i.e. knave, sociopath, rapist) which also makes the text feel juvenile and like a last resort to pump up the pages.
The final chapter of “Blood Will Tell” ends on a captivating note with Kramer discussing the ramifications and differences which would resulted from Henry’s reign had he not been ‘sick’ as proposed by her theory. More of this in the book would have been welcomed. This conclusion flows into a biography of all secondary sources; mostly Tudor England works (most of which I, myself, have read) versus too many medical sources which is slightly discouraging.
Overall, “Blood Will Tell” is recommended to readers who must read all Tudor books but not much else will be gained if one is already familiar with the Kell/McLeod theory. Basically, the theory is mentioned and that is pretty much it. “Blood Will Tell” is not necessarily a book to rush toward. Perhaps Kramer should stick to her day job. ...more
The sisters of Henry VIII – Margaret and Mary – are much overshadowed by their legendary brother even though these ladies were princesses and Queens iThe sisters of Henry VIII – Margaret and Mary – are much overshadowed by their legendary brother even though these ladies were princesses and Queens in their own rights. Nancy Lenz Harvey explores the Tudor sisters in, “The Rose and the Thorn: The Lives of Mary and Margaret Tudor”.
Harvey mentions in her preface that she attempted to have “the weight of the narrative to be carried in the words of Margaret and Mary” by including as many letters and writings from their own hands in the text as possible. This sounds exciting and illuminating as nothing reveals the inner psyche of historical figures from centuries bygone more than primary writings. Sadly, “The Rose and the Thorn” fails in being riveting.
Harvey is guilty of being a good writer but not one who should pretend to be a historian (she was an English professor). Similar to her book on Elizabeth of York, “The Rose and the Thorn” waxes poetic in overly-exaggerated, flowery detail (example: “The city was wet with the tears of its citizenary”). Basically, Harvey mentions one solid fact and then writes an opinionated fictional narrative for a page until mentioning another fact. She is like a politician who blumbers on and on but isn’t actually saying much. This would make for a great historical fiction novel but results in a weak historical text rife with speculation and assumptions presented as facts.
“The Rose and the Thorn” fails to truly illuminate the Tudor sisters. Much of what is discusses is surrounding information versus traversing on the ladies (and what is mentioned sounds like an epitaph). Harvey focuses more on superficial descriptions (‘dumpy’ Margaret jealous of beautiful Mary) than anything else. On a positive note, “The Rose and the Thorn” intertwines the stories of the sisters showing what happened to each at the same time (for a macro view) instead of presenting individual biographies which would run the risk of jumping back and forth in chronology.
It isn’t until slightly past the halfway point that Harvey strengthens a bit on the historical front. Even though Mary and Margaret still aren’t thoroughly revealed; some light is shed onto their relationship with Henry VIII. Not to mention, the debacles with Scotland are well detailed, with the reader becoming very clear on why Henry stood against Scotland the way he did. Sadly, Harvey still peppers the text with such phrases as, “The sheer magnificence of it all was enough to make the heart of the Queen of Scotland ache” and when “the two hundred dishes began to pass; Margaret found each delicacy salted with bitterness”. These are emotionally descriptive but absolutely deserve no space inside of a supposed academic, history piece.
The conclusion of “The Rose and the Thorn” is devoid of anything memorable except for Harvey (once again) emphasizing her love for Mary and distaste for Margaret. It is definitely not a strong ending. This is followed by some notes and bibliography which is surprising because the text is so exaggerated and almost fictional.
Not much more can be said about “The Rose and the Thorn” but to skip it. Harvey’s writing in general is not very academic (this is also the case with her book on Elizabeth of York) but this one is ridiculously speculative, reads like a novel, and does not reveal anything about Mary and Margaret which even a new Tudor doesn’t already know. Harvey merely stirs up frustration and her book is a waste of time. Skip! ...more
Although I live in the United States; I wouldn’t be able to list most of the US Presidents if you paid me. Yet, ask me the monarchs of England and I cAlthough I live in the United States; I wouldn’t be able to list most of the US Presidents if you paid me. Yet, ask me the monarchs of England and I could list them (in order, mind you) even while half asleep. Ian Crofton provides a similar directory in, “Kings and Queens of England: The Lives and Reigns of the Monarchs of England”.
“Kings and Queens of England” is a small, colorful, glossy-paged book which is fit for a reference shelf (albeit a thin one) or a coffee table. The structure is that of a directory or quick-reference guide while the content is exactly what it claims to be: a listing of English monarchs with brief bios (generally 2-4 pages for each).
The term ‘brief’ is not an exaggeration as the issue with “Kings and Queens of England” is that it is much too summarized and simplified. Although Crofton does mention interesting and/or menial notes and facts; nothing is detailed and therefore the reader is not left with a solid image of any of the monarchs. Basically, “Kings and Queens of England” is somewhat flat and not memorable.
On the other hand, the format is useful as a quick reference with charts depicting the monarch’s coat of arms and listing such facts as birth date, parents, children, succession date, house, death, etc; while the section contain photos, quotes, and small supplemented texts to round the bios. Worth mentioning is that the quoted paragraphs are much too small in font size and will present some trouble for those with eye problems.
An annoying factor is Crofton’s habit of mentioning Shakespeare and the playwright’s depictions of kings. Although this may be used in order to find a common ground with the average reader; it comes off as elementary and far from scholarly.
Sadly, Crofton doesn’t explore any new ground in “Kings and Queens of England” and thus those readers well-read on English royalty will be somewhat bored unless looking for a quick recap. In fact, the text is better suited for young adults versus adults (unless the adult has no previous knowledge on the subject). Crofton also states too many myths and propaganda pieces as though they are factual plus much of “Kings and Queens of England” is dated (such as the section on Richard III). Therefore, it is suggested to take the text with a grain of salt.
On a positive note, Crofton smoothly presents the transition of ultimate monarchism to the ceremonial role it holds today; helping the reader understand the modern-day impact of their role. The conclusion is solid stipulating on the future of the royal family while also offering genealogical charts.
Note: “Kings and Queens of England” focuses on the monarchs regnant versus consort.
Overall, “Kings and Queens of England” is a quick, overly simplified introduction to the monarchs of England. Dated, riding on speculation, and brief; the text sadly won’t make an impact with readers. Those familiar with the topic won’t learn anything new and therefore the book is only strongly suggested for general readers who simply want to be debriefed. ...more
Although Peter Hammond’s “The Tower of London” is quite possibly a pamphlet/ program distributed to tourists; its glorious illustrations and insightfuAlthough Peter Hammond’s “The Tower of London” is quite possibly a pamphlet/ program distributed to tourists; its glorious illustrations and insightful history still provides an enjoyable, quick read for Anglophiles.
“The Tower of London” opens with an overall history recap of the Tower of London from the first stones ordered by William the Conqueror to modern-day tourism. Although this introduction is beautifully supplemented by colorful illustrations and photographs, it is a brief overview: simply written (easy enough for middle-aged children) and thus lacking an overemphasis of detail. However, even without extensive depth, it still garners interest and prepares the reader for the second section of “The Tower of London”.
Hammond’s second portion, titled “The Buildings of the Tower”, dives into a closer portrait account of each section of the Tower (individual towers, wards, etc). Hammond presents various facets of information from the conception of the White Tower to floor plans, history to current occupants, and even the materials (types of stones) used. This detail is not cumbersome and instead brings the Tower to life along with the illustrations.
Although highly informative, “The Tower of London” is purely a factual presentation and is therefore not necessarily an entertaining reading in a narrative sense. The text lacks character or wit, however; it is a wealth of information for those interested in the topic (basically, it is very academic and reads like a school book).
The main highlight is the two-page centerfold of the entire Tower complex with each building and portion well-labeled. This centerfold shows the grandiosity of the Tower and is designed to impress the reader while providing a “go-to” illustration when reading the text.
A major complaint against “The Tower of London” was the mention of Jane Grey’s death being merely due to suffering “for her descent from Henry VII which made her, despite herself, a rival to Mary” versus indicating her “Nine Days Queen” reputation.
The end of “The Tower of London” is quite strong describing the many tourist attractions and events at the tower (the Royal Armouries, Crown Jewels, the Changing of the Guards, Ceremony of the Keys, the “Ravenmaster”, etc); soliciting excitement from the reader. I am even more excited to visit the Tower than I was before (I didn’t know that was possible)! Overall, “The Tower of London” is an informative guide which will satisfy a tourist or Anglophile for a quick read or browse. ...more
Several books exist depicting life during the time of Queen Elizabeth. Adding to the list, A.N. Wilson attempts to stick out in the crowd with his worSeveral books exist depicting life during the time of Queen Elizabeth. Adding to the list, A.N. Wilson attempts to stick out in the crowd with his work, “The Elizabethans”.
A.N. Wilson’s “The Elizabethans” is a contradiction in writing which results in my having contradictory views. What do I mean by this? The book’s identity and “purpose” tends to be a bit lost in the overly-ambitious work. Initially, Wilson provides an overview of the struggles and aggravations between the English and Irish and its impact on modern schools of thought. This is heavy academic writing and can instantly deter some readers. Once past this, the book progresses more into the realm which the title suggests: England during the time of Queen Elizabeth.
In a unique way, “The Elizabethans” doesn’t simply divide chapters into sections based on such topics as clothing, food, or occupations like most Elizabethan period studies; but instead tells the ways of England during the era though the eyes of famous figures which provides psychological and philosophical insight. However, it is recommended that the reader already be familiar with these figures as Wilson doesn’t provide introductions.
“The Elizabethans” is very dense with a satisfying amount of sources; however, it is overwhelming in narrative flow. Some history books are entertaining while others are best used as source material for the authors of the entertaining books. Wilson’s work is more a source material and not categorized as easy-to-read. At the same time, Wilson contradicts and attempts to use overly familiar terms at times such as calling Henry VIII a “monster” and Mary’s religious victims as having been “roasted”. Furthermore, Wilson often speaks directly to the reader asserting that he isn’t trying to prove specific points and yet at the same time, he often makes biased comments in a forceful, unarguable tone. Cocky or an expert? You decide.
The scope in “The Elizabethans” is well detailed and all areas in her realm are covered. Yet, I didn’t notice any new information in terms of history. The “new” views were academic debates from Wilson regarding the philosophical fronts which, albeit, are sometimes interesting. Basically, the book is not what one would expect from the way it is marketed which can result in disappointment.
Both the tone and voice in “The Elizabethans” isn’t consistent which causes an up and down flow of equally up and down bouts of boredom and entertainment which some chapters diving into more details than others (the chapter “The New Learning” was quite interesting). The tone changes too often (scholarly, journalistic, and even conversational) while the sections can be disjointed and jump around too much in tangents. “The Elizabethans” also has a social history aspect to it which cuts into the scholarly side and makes it more accessible but adds to the style inconsistencies.
This is certainly the one book to read if you want a one-stop shop for all Elizabethan details making it useful for those readers new to Elizabeth. Sadly though, its overabundance of information makes details hard to retain and slower reading is optimal. Oddly enough, once of the more “touching” chapters was on Mary Stuart versus Elizabeth. Conversely, in this chapter (and many others), Wilson exhibited high school-like quips which aren’t necessary in his writing and cause questioning of his credibility (example: “But the hair, like so much about her, was fake” ). Is that necessary to interject?
My main issue are the blaring errors which Wilson (who is remarked as being an “award-winning biographer and celebrated novelist”) so pointedly expressed as truths. Wilson states that Henry VIII died from Syphilis (when it has been argued that this is incorrect because a purchase of mercury—used to care for the disease—is not in many of his account books). Wilson also declares that Elizabeth wished to be buried with her sister Mary and have the tomb with the famous epitaph erected to show her views on religious apathy and tolerance… when this was actually the work of King James.
Wilson did use an extensive amount of source material (although it was 95% secondary) and also featured two sections of color plates (in black and white--- color would have been preferred).
“The Elizabethans” is recommended if conducting research Queen Elizabeth or her reign (although be careful with the blaring errors) but overall, there are much better books available on the topic. I wouldn’t necessarily read from this author again....more
Although the love affair between Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley is well-known; I generally find myself “rooting” for the underdog which in this casAlthough the love affair between Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley is well-known; I generally find myself “rooting” for the underdog which in this case was Dudley’s ill-fated wife, Amy Robsart. Her death – whether from breast cancer, suicide, or murder—is one of my favorite unsolved mysteries. Brandy Purdy explores this love triangle in “The Queen’s Pleasure”.
The first 200 pages of “The Queen’s Pleasure” are told through Amy’s eyes alternating chapters between the day of her death and of her memories of her marriage to Robert. Although this back-and-forth can become tiresome; Amy truly comes alive which is refreshing due to the lack of books focusing on her viewpoint. Sadly, however, her characterization stresses her as a “country bumpkin” as though Purdy is trying to convince the reader that Amy wasn’t good enough for Robert.
In fact, “The Queen’s Pleasure” suffers wholly from stereotypes with none of the characters escaping the role they are expected to play: Robert is rude, crude, and ambitious while his brother Guildford is a spoiled mama’s boy as Elizabeth is emotionless and selfish (although her arc evolves). Although these typecast roles create ample drama within the novel; they are one-dimensional for the readers hoping to explore new sides to the figures.
From a historical context, “The Queen’s Pleasure” is rather accurate with facts while the historical liberties employed are believable and overall enrich the story. Although, there are fluffy sections which feel like a pathetic romance novel. Furthermore, Purdy has “slip-ups” in dialogue which are too modern or posed in a way which would never occur.
Purdy’s writing style is very figurative, literary, and illustrative; focusing more on thoughts and emotions versus dialogue. This creates a deeper and richer novel than expected with less fluff. On the contrary, there are many areas which feel forced and dragged out with allusions stretching pages with little movement or action resulting in the reader’s propensity to scan and not miss anything within the plot.
Another frustrating factor is the mention of buttercups and apples on EVERY page. Readers will come to hate buttercups! Purdy clearly added some of the events strictly for novelty (ghost monks, Robert and Amy having sex in front of his brothers in the tower, Amy masturbating in a public bath, voodoo-type wax dolls). These can be annoying, and again, perceived as “trying too hard”. Fortunately, these are infrequent and it feels as though Purdy was uncomfortable with them but felt she had to include them for popularity (they don’t add to the plot and could have been left out).
Naturally, “The Queen’s Pleasure” is much more dramatic as Elizabeth’s alternating chapters stir up the mix. The reader truly feels Amy’s pain and scorn and also Elizabeth’s need for control. The novel is certainly not for Robert fans, as the feelings of hatred toward him can’t be avoided. At the same time, Purdy is repetitive and makes Amy distasteful as each page is filled with numerous attempts to gain (failingly) Robert’s attention and love. This becomes tedious, predictable, and frustrating.
The conclusion of “The Queen’s Pleasure” was strong and then a let-down. Strong:Purdy, in a sense, combined all the theories surrounding Amy’s death which gave an unbiased demise and allows the reader to make his/her own conclusion. Furthermore, Purdy seamlessly interweaves Leicester’s Commonwealth into the tale, strengthening the novel as this document isn’t often explored resulting in a memorable ending. However, the epilogue (which was not necessary) weakens the ending, adds an unneeded twist to the entire novel, and results in a groan. I would suggest ignoring this section. Purdy does discuss some of the historical after notes in the post-script) (bringing to light the interesting figures of Thomas Blount and Dr. Walter Bayly).
The main feature and deciding factor whether one would enjoy the novel or not; is the lack of constant dialogue and banter with a more stream of consciousness approach. To some, “The Queen’s Pleasure” is thus a deeper novel while to others; it may be slow and sluggish. Overall though, I would recommend “The Queen’s Pleasure” to those seeking novels regarding Amy Robsart (as they aren’t abundant). ...more