Although related by blood and residing in bordering countries; the Tudors and Stuarts (Stewarts) were far from chummy. This dramatic relationship bestAlthough related by blood and residing in bordering countries; the Tudors and Stuarts (Stewarts) were far from chummy. This dramatic relationship best-suited for a soap opera is retold by Linda Porter in, “Tudors Versus Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots”.
Having previously read two books by Porter; there are certain characteristics of the author’s writing which I was on the lookout for. As per usual, “Tudors Versus Stewarts” has a slow start which feels too much like establishing background information. This is understandable in beginning a scholarly text but Porter maintains this for approximately 100 pages. Often times, it is like reading an extended foreward.
Furthermore, Porter’s premise for “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is too explain the interactions, emotions, and psychological effects of the countries and monarchies on one another but this is lost in the shuffle. Instead, Porter simply retells the history of both countries during a set time frame and swaps back-and-forth explaining what occurred at the same time. This doesn’t adhere to her thesis, though. Common to Porter, her writing often strays on tangents creating a choppy, disjointed piece.
Although Porter does begin to find her stride and has strong moments (such as the discussion of Perkin Warbeck); she puts on emphasis on non-important areas while fluffing up minor notes, being the opposite of what the reader expects. “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is best described as being “off key”.
In Porter’s other works, she had the habit of making highly speculative or opinionated statements. This is also the case with “Tudors Versus Stewarts”. The text is filled with “Might have”, “Perhaps”, and “Must have” phrases and several admissions of, “We don’t know what happened but…” Several times, Porter concludes that, “There are no records of what was discussed but surely it was…” No Porter, you don’t “surely know” what was discussed with no records! Examples of juvenile comments include saying such as, “Later in life she [Margaret Tudor] simply looks fat” (p 143) and Margaret resenting the “crusty old earl” (p 148). These have no place in an academic piece.
Although there are admittedly some moments that Porter tries to debunk some myths (not well, as her text isn’t really annotated and she quickly moves past her attempts at debunking); on the whole “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is a recap instead of learning anything new. Again, the aim and angle of the book is unique but Porter falls short in execution.
Porter insists on sprinkling the text with mentions of Shakespeare (why are so many recent history authors begetting Shakespeare as a historian?!) and quoting poems/literature. Perhaps this is done to lighten the load but it merely works to downgrade the emphasis of “Tudors Versus Stewarts”.
The second half of “Tudors Versus Stewarts” focuses largely on Scotland. Although this is still simply a retelling and does not meet the thesis; it is a strong source for those interested in an overview of Scottish politics in the 16th century.
“Tudors Versus Stewarts” rushes at the conclusion and ends rather abruptly. Porter’s biases are clear and although she attempts to add importance to the clashing between the Tudors and Stuarts (ending with King James I of England); she failed to do anything other than present a dual biography.
Porter follows the text with an epilogue, list of key figures, notes, and bibliography while the text contains a section of black and white photo plates. It should be noted that I have read many of the secondary sources Porter used which is why the book didn’t offer me new information but this may not be the case with all readers.
Overall, Porter’s piece has a strong motive and thesis but it was not carried out to a proven point. “Tudors versus Stewarts is readable (meaning: not boring) and one will learn of many Scottish and English events but I was merely expecting more. The book is not bad and suggested for those interested in the history but it won’t blow you away. ...more
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 outOne 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. ...more
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 anFor 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 ...more
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
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
Who doesn’t know about Elizabeth Tudor? Whether it is for her famous mother, her pirate conquests, or her many (supposed) lovers; the Virgin Queen hasWho doesn’t know about Elizabeth Tudor? Whether it is for her famous mother, her pirate conquests, or her many (supposed) lovers; the Virgin Queen has titillated for centuries. Susan Kay’s “Legacy” attempts to present Elizabeth from the eyes of men in her life, both romantic and political.
Susan Kay’s “Legacy” felt like two separate books (which could be argued as a lack of cohesive tact). The early chapters were much too disjointed with an overall look at events in Elizabeth’s early life (and those even before her birth). None of the events or characters was thoroughly explored and Kay lacked in presenting detail of any sort. However, don’t give up on Kay just yet (I was tempted, personally) because “Legacy” completes a 180 degree turn after several chapters.
“Legacy” begins to build tension once Elizabeth is nearing her adolescence, which keeps the story moving at a suitable pace. Even for those familiar with Tudor/Elizabethan history; an element of “what will happen next?” drives the story. Kay’s presentation is unique, as “Legacy” flip-flops between telling the story though the eyes of various characters and thus allowing for both Elizabeth’s views and of those who came into contact with her. This style captures Elizabeth with a fuller impression and less bias (allowing the entire viewing of Elizabeth’s pros and cons), and therefore encourages the reader to create his/her own opinion.
Many of the events/elements are not discussed in deep detail which can satisfy those readers familiar with the Tudors seeking a moving story line and less detail; or it can a negative to those newer readers who want a fuller view. Despite the personal preference, a major-related positive is that “Legacy” is largely historically accurate. Unlike many historical fiction novel authors which take drastic and sometimes “annoying” historical liberties, Kay sticks to the greater part of the facts. Although there are some fictional areas, some which may even cause groans from the reader (ahem: passionate kiss between Elizabeth and Philip of Spain); Kay is still less fantasy-based in her work which is a relief to HF readers whom enjoy largely accurate works.
Similarly, Kay smoothly and seamlessly incorporates well-known quotes into the dialogue of “Legacy”, which fit into the character conversations while adding depth but again: are historically accurate. On the negative side, some of the characters are highly stereotypical but surprisingly, Elizabeth is not overly glorified with an emphasis on showing her strengths and weaknesses. Basically, Elizabeth isn’t “thrown in the face” of the reader. Instead of pure Elizabeth focus, Kay incorporates a healthy cast of characters which perfectly add to the story (each has just the “right” amount of time within the plot) and do not become tiresome. Some unexpected (albeit, brief) cameo roles (such as Mildred Cecil) help provide the full Elizabeth view.
“Legacy” does contain some overly dramatic moments (Elizabeth’s first time supposedly having sex with Robert Dudley and Dudley’s rape/violent thoughts toward her) but luckily, these were fleeting and not explored with varying depth.
Although a minor point, some phrases/descriptions were overused, becoming annoying and predictable. Kay didn’t explore descriptive options, constantly describing Elizabeth as a “coveted bone” and her courtiers as dogs.
The last section of “Legacy” reverted back to the poor beginning in its sense of slow-moving, drawn out events. The book could have ended pages before it did but Kay dragged out the predictable ending in order to build suspense which was never realized. Furthermore, Elizabeth was overly described as losing her mind, which despite the depth of realism, was overly dramatized and completely contradicted the entire book creating a weak ending. Plus, the epilogue is completely ridiculous and downright, silly.
Overall, “Legacy” is a quick read (don’t let the page count scare you) and is enjoyable for the new or experienced reader for different reasons. Although Kay may not blow you away, the historical accuracy will at least keep you entwined even if for a light read. ...more
The death of Amy Robsart (wife of Robert Dudley) is one of my favorite historical mysteries; having always felt a connection to Amy. This, along withThe death of Amy Robsart (wife of Robert Dudley) is one of my favorite historical mysteries; having always felt a connection to Amy. This, along with enjoying Chris Skidmore’s work, “Edward VI”, drew me to “Death and the Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I and the Dark Scandal that Rocked the Throne”.
A few choice words can be used to describe “Death and the Virgin Queen”: dry, heavy, and not earth-shattering are a few of them. The first 200 pages of “Death and the Virgin Queen” focus on setting the scene and tone of the childhoods of Robert Dudley and Elizabeth. Although Skidmore seemingly does this from an investigational perspective in order to justify motive and character; he fails to do so. The text merely feels like a retelling of information which avid Tudor readers already know. Nothing new is ventured nor explored and can thus be skimmed.
Furthermore, Amy’s life is hardly mentioned during the large chunk of the book and much of the “facts” that are included are speculation and “would have” conjectures. Understandably, not much information exists regarding Amy’s private life but Skidmore should have perhaps just began “Death and the Virgin Queen” with Amy’s death, as the reader doesn’t feel like he/she knows Amy anyway.
With that being said, Skidmore’s research is extensive, heavily annotated, and impressive in its scope (it is perhaps too much for those new to the topic). Skidmore even features conclusions from household receipts and account books which are always interesting. Plus, supplemental color plates and photos of actual documents serve to round out the text.
Once Skidmore recalls Amy’s death, court trial (briefly), and burial; he begins to dissect the evidence using persuasive documentation (such as the Coroner’s Report found after 450 years), modern statistics, and criminal analysis. Much of Skidmore’s findings are indeed compelling, unique, and quite in-depth, certainly causing readers interested in Amy’s death to question previous studies. However, Skidmore doesn’t fully convince the reader of any one conclusion and hides his own hypothesis. Although bias can be unwelcome in most history cases, in such pretext I would have liked more firm provoking of Skidmore’s analysis/conclusion.
While Skidmore does present some investigation regarding the Amy scandal, he still reverts back to merely describing events. Skidmore’s tone and writing ability is simply better suited for bios/portraits. Therefore, fear not if you are a Dudley supporter, as Skidmore doesn’t take sides and put Dudley in any ill-light (but he doesn’t support Dudley, either). Skidmore does swing back to Amy but even with the compelling information, it was too little too late.
Missing was the popular possibility that Cecil was involved in Amy’s death. Skidmore only mentions this with one sentence and moves on saying it was impossible without offering ‘why’.
The appendices were especially gratifying as Skidmore presented Amy’s Coroner’s Report in full (in both Latin and translated), the Dudley-Blount letters, excerpts from Leicester’s Commonwealth, and the Journal of Matters of the State. Skidmore also uses sufficient primary and secondary sources giving credibility to his work.
To sum up: Skidmore focuses more on the effect of Amy’s death (on Elizabeth’s reign, on her relationship with Dudley, etc) versus trying to figure out the cause of Amy’s death. “Death and the Virgin Queen” is simply not what I expected and dare I say: even a little boring.
“Death and the Virgin Queen” is a good introduction to Amy and the impact of her death but is not sensational or conclusive in any way. Skidmore’s work isn’t terrible, but it is a disappointment (I do like his previous work, though, so I would still read another book from him). ...more