Although related by blood and residing in bordering countries; the Tudors and Stuarts (Stewarts) were far from chummy. This dramatic relationship best...moreAlthough 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. (less)
Although Peter Hammond’s “The Tower of London” is quite possibly a pamphlet/ program distributed to tourists; its glorious illustrations and insightfu...moreAlthough 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. (less)
This is not only one of my favorite Alison Weir historical works but also one of my favorite books, in general. All 688 pages of it (I read the hardco...moreThis is not only one of my favorite Alison Weir historical works but also one of my favorite books, in general. All 688 pages of it (I read the hardcover). The overwhelming (but in a positive way) level of research, organization, sleuth-like discoveries, and yet cake batter smoothness of this book results in the perfect combination of informational read and entertainment.
Certainly a page turner, the only thing that kept me taking breaks while reading is that I didn't want to finish it! I've always been a supporter of the brave and yet ambitious Mary Stuart. Another female who has historically received insults and negative connotations towards her person, I see past the bad reputation and support her triumph over trife.
Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley gives an overview of the little girl who became queen merely days after her birth with the tragic death of her father King James. Weir then dives head first into Detective Weir mode and like a modern-day criminal investigation, she reviews historical documents, letters (the now-hotly debated vailidity of the Casket Letters), personal quotes, actions, etc; to try to map out the events leading up to and during the murder of Darnley. There were several groups of ambitious indiviuals who would have liked to gain from Darnley's death and Weir investigates each thread. Fast-paced and informational, you will feel the adrenlin of "Who did it?!".
Don't be initimated by its length, this is one history book combining factual research, drama, and a game of CLUE in the most exciting way possible. Even Darnley would be reading this novel in his grave to get some answers. (less)
I cannot fathom why every reader must compare every book of Gregory's to The Other Boleyn Girl. I understand that it was the most popular and was made...moreI cannot fathom why every reader must compare every book of Gregory's to The Other Boleyn Girl. I understand that it was the most popular and was made into a film. That doesn't mean every comment should be "This is not like The Other Boleyn Girl" or "This is so much better than The Other Boleyn Girl". Can't an author write other books and in other writing styles?! Furthermore, I will bet a million dollars that 80% of the other readers NEVER read The Other Boleyn Girl and only saw the film which is not even 100% historically accurate and is basically filled with intrique like an episode of The Tudors. Straighten up, some you other "readers".
Moving on, The Other Queen, featuring Mary Stuart during her time of "protection" aka house arrest under Elizabeth I in the home of Bess of Hardwick; is indeed a great read. Mary had quite a life from the moment she became Queen, merely days after her birth. With a mother like Mary of Guise, this was written in the stars. The story picks up after Mary's involvement (or lack there of) with the murder of Lord Darnley and the subsequent marriage with Bothwell. Afterwards, Mary flees to England thinking Elizabeth can help claim her innocence and to return to Scotland stronger than ever, however, Elizabeth with the help of scheming yet intelligent Cecil is urged to place Mary under house arrest to protect her own crown and that of James (Mary's son in Scotland).
Yes, The Other Queen did skip all that drama and focus on the house arrest but this brought into play the famous Bess of Hardwick and her views on the situation. This opens a new fork in the road to how one can perceive Mary and Elizabeth during this time. Despite being in Bess's household, Mary is still portrayed as a stong, daring, and conviving (in a good way). Mary was an extrememely ambitious indiviual throughout her turmoil and Gregory suffciently presents that in a unique way.
So yes, it may not be The Other Boleyn Girl, but NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE!