There are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of books/texts/writings available focusing on the lives of major Tudor-era figures. However, these ‘There are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of books/texts/writings available focusing on the lives of major Tudor-era figures. However, these ‘celebrities’ were a minority in the population so what about the common, everyday folk? What were their lives like? Ruth Goodman visits (and lives!) the lives of people just like you and me during the Tudor period in, “How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life”.
Ruth Goodman is n expert when it comes to historical accuracy and reenactment and has a personal interest in the Tudor period. Goodman thereby crafts “How to Be a Tudor” into a unique piece combining elements of an academic text, memoir, how-to guide, and a “day in the life of...” personalization literally focusing on the full day of civilian life in Tudor England (although royalty and peerage is still occasionally addressed). Initially, all of this meshing of styles feels clunky and ill-conceived and therefore isn’t smooth. “How to Be a Tudor” can be somewhat difficult to follow at this stage as Goodman doesn’t seem to know the best ways to transition her writing.
As “How to Be a Tudor” progresses, either the reader gets used to Goodman’s style or she becomes more confident (probably a mixture of both); resulting in a stronger and more compelling read. Although “How to Be a Tudor” is still ‘different’, it becomes so in a good way and the reader is intrigued to continue on. Goodman clearly encompasses a wealth of information which also includes first-hand experience of her having tried Tudor ways of life which debunks myths, clarifies facts, and teaches the reader; therefore bringing many new lights to the topic.
Goodman infuses the text with light humor here and there which keeps the pace moving and fresh while also highlighting examples and case studies of the lives of “nobodies” (wonder what these individuals were to think if they knew that they just received their 15 minutes of fame?). However, there is an issue with some light repetition with Goodman revisiting some facts from one section to another.
Even though Goodman makes “How to Be a Tudor” accessible and easy-to-understand; there is a lot of material and details which can become overwhelming. It is suggested to take some reader “breather” breaks in order to retain and grasp all of the information. Goodman’s success lies in not running off on tangents with all of the material and keeping on path with her thesis.
Although informative, the conclusion of “How to Be a Tudor” feels open-ended and somewhat anti-climatic. A summary would have done well to make the book more memorable and rounded.
Sadly, Goodman doesn’t include notes or citations which can question credibility but several pages of sources are available. “How to Be a Tudor” also includes three sections of photo plates.
“How to Be a Tudor” has a rocky start but this smoothes out into an informative and unique book which definitely opens up the Tudor times in a way which isn’t always evident in historical texts, teaching the reader a bountiful of information. Although not necessarily the best “flowing” text; “How to Be a Tudor” is an excellent reference piece and engages the reader in its own way. “How to Be a Tudor” is recommended for all readers interested in the Tudor period. ...more
Those active in the Tudor online community are probably familiar with Barb Alexander’s “The Tudor Tutor” in which she presents Tudor history lessons iThose active in the Tudor online community are probably familiar with Barb Alexander’s “The Tudor Tutor” in which she presents Tudor history lessons in a sassy and witty way making it ‘fun’ and accessible. Alexander offers her knowledge for the first time in print-form in, “The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty”.
“The Tudor Tutor” is a slim volume offering a quick overview of the main topics in Tudor history. Imagine Alexander’s angle as bullet points or a play off her blog/site but written in a more narrative way. The pace flows easily and quickly, resulting in a fast read. “The Tudor Tutor” can be described as a “history-beach read”.
Alexander infuses “The Tudor Tutor” with humor and charm which is the reason behind her internet fame resulting in a few chuckles from the reader. There are some evident moments, however, where it is obvious that Alexander tries too hard to be funny which can be tiresome. Certainly do not expect an in-depth scholarly read with “The Tudor Tutor”. It teaches history but not in a credible, academic way.
Elaborating on this lack of depth, “The Tutor Tudor” is a ‘fun’ read but it doesn’t present any new information or offer any new angles to those familiar with the topic. Alexander’s work is best suited for those seeing a quick doctor’s office book inducing a few smiles. “The Tutor Tudor” is very much a blog in print form. Don’t misunderstand – it is not bad- it simply is very light so one has to merely take it for what it is.
Illustrator Lisa Graves adds some entertainment to “The Tudor Tutor” with colorful, hand-drawn illustrations. Although these are accurately based on historical paintings; even these have a hint of humor/snark (an occasional side glance or smirk on a figure’s face) which supplements Alexander’s text appropriately plus solidifies the information discussed with the reader.
Alexander does have the flaw of sometimes “crossing the line” with her descriptions, meaning that during her attempts to be comedic, Alexander can be offensive to those historical figures discussed or is biased in nature (against them). This isn’t overly harsh but still appears slightly childish. On the other hand, Alexander often ends paragraphs with questions which encourage readers to interpret the reading and encourages after -thoughts and personal research.
Despite my complaints, “The Tudor Tutor” is certainly entertaining and is a “cute” way to learn history. Plus, Alexander never claims to be an expert, doesn’t act elitist, and isn’t called a professional. Some other authors in the same realm (I’m talking about you, Susan Bordo) whom pen humorous history takes claim to be experts when they are FAR from it. Alexander doesn’t go down that path, keeping humility and not displaying any attitude or airs. Well done, Alexander!
“The Tudor Tutor” ends strongly with a somewhat lesser-discussed factoid (Stuart vs. Stewart spelling) which leaves on a memorable note. Alexander also offers a timeline of Tudor dynasty events and a light list of sources for further reading.
“The Tudor Tutor” is a humorous and indeed ‘cheeky’ look at the Tudor reign. Although light and not academic; it is a good introduction to those new to the topic or would fit well as a supplement to an exhibit. However, it is not necessarily suggested for those well-versed on the topic unless one is searching for a laugh. Again, don’t misunderstand my complaints: “The Tudor Tutor” is a fun ‘guide’. I am merely saying that is all it is so don’t expect anything more. ...more
There are many key notes occurring during the Tudor Dynasty: from the Battle of Bosworth to Henry VIII’s wives to the Spanish Armada. Although on a smThere are many key notes occurring during the Tudor Dynasty: from the Battle of Bosworth to Henry VIII’s wives to the Spanish Armada. Although on a smaller scale; there were also some other notable events such as rebellions and uprisings amongst the citizens of England (does the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’ ring a bell?). Anthony Fletcher and Diarmaid MacCulloch take a look at these in, “Tudor Rebellions” (revised 5th Edition).
“Tudor Rebellions” begins with a chronology of events, a “Who’s Who” of key figures, and maps of the paths of the rebellions. These maps are definitely noteworthy as I have read hundreds of Tudor history books and don’t particularly recall such maps of the rebellions elsewhere. This flows into a psychological and sociological look into the setup of Tudor societies, what motivated them, and how/why the social classes were managed. Although a little bit dry for those not interested in such topics; Fletcher and MacCulloch’s writing is still accessible.
Following is a chronological description of the rebellions which took place. Each of these is assessed in strong detail per the events, people involved, where they occurred, doctrines produced, any legal complexities, etc. It is clear that the authors conducted abundant research and again, I have not seen such a presentation focusing solely on the rebellions elsewhere. Not to mention, “Tudor Rebellions” differs by focusing more on the side of the citizens and protestors versus that of the government illuminating a whole new perspective and outlook.
Each rebellion is followed by an analysis exploring various theories of the causes of these uprisings. The problem with this is that “Tudor Rebellions” reads like a college case study at this point. Fletcher and MacCulloch too often quote others and simply paraphrase previous studies versus offering their own input. This breaks up the work and slows the pace.
“Tudor Rebellions” provides a vast amount of information and detail in a small space. Although that is a good thing for those seeking facts about the period; it can also be overwhelming and requires small breaks in order to take it all in and absorb the material. It isn’t that “Tudor Rebellions” isn’t easy-to-read per se; but it isn’t super fast, either. It is somewhat deceiving based purely on length.
The third part of “Tudor Rebellions” attempts to explain why rebellions occurred logistically and economically in terms of high and low politics. Sadly, the thesis is lost, the argument is weak and the section is seemingly pointless in the text as it would make absolutely no difference on impact if it was absent.
Luckily, “Tudor Rebellions” is then refueled by part four which features 24 primary documents ranging from articles to letters written by both key figures and rebels which provide a delightful insight into these historical events. The only issue with these supplements are the spelling (kept in its original) which makes reading slightly difficult. Fletcher and MacCulloch then provide some notes and a list of sources, as well.
“Tudor Rebellions” is a great piece for an isolated look at the rebellions which took place during the Tudor dynasty. The coverage is informative and provides more depth than other books which merely mention these events. The text is somewhat slow; but it is certainly recommended for all readers who are interested in the Tudor times (but more so for those with some preexisting knowledge on the topic versus novice readers). ...more
Although the name Hans Holbein may not be one that every ‘Average Joe’ is familiar with; the chances are that one has seen the artist’s work (probablyAlthough the name Hans Holbein may not be one that every ‘Average Joe’ is familiar with; the chances are that one has seen the artist’s work (probably a la the famous painting of King Henry VIII). Stephanie Buck, Jochen Sander, and other collaborators come together to produce, “Hans Holbein the Younger: Painter at the Court of Henry VIII” to accompany the Hans Holbein exhibit at The Hague in 2003.
Even though “Hans Holbein the Younger” is an exhibit accompaniment; it stands on its own as a fine art coffee table book. The text begins with a foreword describing the exhibit which then flows into a brief biography of Hans Holbein written by Stephanie Buck. This biography is limited in scope and not in-depth but this is due to the lack of source material available versus inadequate research. Despite this lack of conclusive material; an introduction to Holbein is strongly founded.
“Hans Hobein the Younger” proceeds to focus on the “Darmstadt Madonna” which is considered to be Holbein’s masterpiece. Jochen Sander explores the inspirations, materials used, post-haste investigations into the techniques implored, etc. The text is easy-to-understand and accessible while also providing the reader experienced in art with jargon familiar to the field.
The main section of “Hans Holbein the Younger” highlights the catalog of Holbein’s work by showcasing 40 works. The glossy pages feature the works themselves, a caption of the size of the piece, materials used, date created, and current owner. This in itself provides sufficient viewer material for browsing in terms of a coffee table book. However, for though who do not find that to be enough; the accompanying text supplements well by exploring the full arc of each piece from the commissioning individual, to the production of the art, and ending with the current status of the art piece. The highlights are penned by alternating authors making the catalog fresh and without repetition but yet it is cohesive and seamless in structure.
The appeal of the catalog discussion is that not only does the reader learn of Holbein’s technique in each painting but also benefits from exploring the background of the subjects; adding value and depth to the painting studies.
“Hans Holbein the Younger” follows the catalog with an appendix including a history of Holbein’s drawings in Windsor Castle, a timeline of events in Holbein’s life sequentially occurring with major English events, biographies for the key figures in Holbein’s time (both the subjects in his paintings and politically in English history), and an extended glossary of key historical terms. These supplements add value and depth to “Hans Holbein the Younger” while also concluding the work on a memorable angle.
Wrapping up “Hans Holbein the Younger” is an enlightening section of annotated notes plus a biography.
“Hans Holbein the Younger” is an excellent coffee table art book which reveals the artist himself while beautifully glorifying some of his works. The book is strongly recommended for those interested in art, Holbein, and the Tudor period in history. ...more
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
Tudorphiles seemingly know everything about the life and actions of Henry VIII. With nothing new to discover (apparently); the question that remains iTudorphiles seemingly know everything about the life and actions of Henry VIII. With nothing new to discover (apparently); the question that remains is “why” was Henry the way he was? What psychological childhood events left a mark on the man as an adult? This topic is precisely John Matusiak’s thesis in, “Henry VIII: The Life and Rule of England’s Nero”.
Trepidation instantly trickled in as Matusiak thanked such fluff authors as Carolly Erickson (!!!) and flowed into text containing inaccurate ‘facts’ within the first few pages. This is definitely an ‘uh oh’ moment for staunch history lovers. “Henry VIII” continues in a summary style rehashing the life of Henry in a popular history way (meaning no notations, few quotes, etc). What does this mean for those readers familiar with Henry VIII? Boredom.
Matusiak’s writing is overly flowery and descriptive being much better suited for a historical fiction novel. Lines describing Henry’s locks being “preened with utmost care” while he “sprinkled himself with musk, amberghs, lavender, rosewater, and orange flower…” are both tiresome and unnecessary. The entire text feels like a narration to a Tudor documentary on television with the visuals missing. Again, this is all better formatted for a HF novel.
The biggest negative factor of “Henry VIII” is Matusiak’s failure to prove his thesis. Although he sets out to pursue the psychological impacts on and of Henry; there is an absence of argument or debate and instead the pages are filled with “would have”, “must have”, and “possibly” speculation. This results in a “What is the point of this?” mentality while reading. Due to the fact that the author is NOT a psychologist; he bluntly falls short on proving any of his points scientifically or academically. Oftentimes, “Henry VIII” reads merely like a college research paper—a poor one with historical inaccuracies. Reader attention is lost unless you are new to the topic in which case I would see why the summary is more ideal. Basically, Matusiak isn’t convincing about any of his ideas.
Another issue arises with Matusiak’s tone which displays an underlying contempt and disgust towards the Tudors. Although not blatant to the point where “Henry VIII” feels anti-Tudor; the writing is still negative in connotation and very passive-aggressive. In time, “Henry VIII” does improve somewhat by providing some interesting facts and thought-provoking ideas. Sadly, a follow-through is still absent and the writing is too arrogant and lacking complexity. Bottom line is that “Henry VIII” is not what Matusiak claims it to be. Although the work markedly improves, the name-calling, biases, and opinions increase making the book wholly subjective and somewhat pointless, in essence.
Naturally, a large chunk of “Henry VIII” focuses on Henry’s “Great Matter”, his break from Rome, and the dissolution of monasteries. This is the strongest portion of Matusiak’s work, as he emphasizes fact more than gossip. However, even this is diseased with inaccuracies plus issues with chronology; topped off with name-calling and ridicule. This pours into the conclusion which lacks depth and is degrading to Henry’s memory; although this shouldn’t come as a surprise in comparison to the rest of “Henry VIII”.
“Henry VIII” does include a source/notes section, however, it is jumbled, unclear, and is not referenced in the text; therefore leaving much to be desired for history buffs. Also present are color plates (in black and white) which are a tiny morsel of pleasure.
“Henry VIII” is overall nothing more than an opinion piece filled with gossip and slander (although the language is well-written). The reader will not get to know Henry except in a false light. The work is not recommended, as those new to the topic will believe the gibberish and Tudorphiles would just be offended (plus no new information is revealed). There isn’t much to compliment with “Henry VIII” and it can be stamped with a big: SKIP! ...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
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
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