If recent English history book shelves are solid indicators of trends, then it appears that the obsession with the Tudors has slipped backwards in timIf recent English history book shelves are solid indicators of trends, then it appears that the obsession with the Tudors has slipped backwards in time with a focus on how the Tudors came to gain the throne in the first place. Chris Skidmore joins this group of Tudor-background exploration in “The Rise of the Tudors: The Family That Changed English History”.
Having thoroughly enjoyed Skidmore’s book on Edward VI but not so much the book concerning Amy Robsart (sadly, because I love her); I was unaware of what to expect with “The Rise of the Tudors”. Fortunately, the reader is instantly smacked with an incredible tour de force of a book. Combining excellent writing skills (not that Skidmore was poor to begin with but he has grown exponentially), strong research, and evident passion for the topic (Skidmore recreated many life events and literally footed the same journeys as Henry Tudor in order to see through his eyes); “The Rise of the Tudors” is strong in every sense of the word.
“The Rise of the Tudors” feels alive and kicking with a strong heartbeat, exciting pace, and consistent storytelling. The text is not overly speculative and is instead objective without biases but yet flows like a narrative history allowing the reader to soak up facts without being either overwhelmed or bored. Skidmore’s writing is intelligent but easy-to-understand, resulting in compelling reading.
The biggest highlight of “The Rise of the Tudors” is the incredible wealth of information presented. Although I am very well versed on the Wars of the Roses, reign of Richard III, Elizabeth of York, etc; I still had some unanswered questions. Skidmore provides research and facts concerning background and angles which other books on the topic skim over. The enlightenment on this period of history is powerful with the reader enjoying many moments of clarity. Events made sense in a way they never have previously which in turn explains personalities and actions of future Tudors.
Furthermore, all of Skidmore’s storytelling has a rhyme and reason. There are moments in which it may seem he is going off on a tangent but there is a reason for every area explored and it all relates to the Tudors. Skidmore has the perfect ratio of mentioning these sideline areas but then bringing together the connection.
On the other hand, “The Rise of the Tudors” lacks annotated notes and strong sources which can question credibility. For instance, there are cases when Skidmore attempts to debunk writings of other historians but offers no sources and doesn’t elaborate. There are also a few (not many, but still existing) occasions in which Skidmore speculates on feelings and thoughts of historical figures.
Skidmore’s telling of the road to Bosworth is impressively a notable one as it is fresh, unique, and informative. Accompanied by maps showing the literal journey Henry’s troops took through each city to Bosworth; Skidmore provides an accurate play-by-play which truly sets the field (no pun intended) for the Battle of Bosworth. Along with rarely seen ‘letters of muster’ produced in full and details of defections; “The Rise of the Tudors” makes for one gripping and hearty book! Unfortunately, this strength weakens with the telling of the Battle of Bosworth. Although Skidmore’s depiction is illustrative and includes a map of the battlefield; he uses the same sources every couple of lines and constantly refers to a war-maneuver manual by Christine de Pazan claiming Richard and Henry must have consulted it. Not only is this an overreaching speculation but feels like filler material and is simply: annoying.
The concluding chapters of “The Rise of the Tudors” focuses on the aftermath of Bosworth concerning the personal ambitions/motives of those who fought in the battle, how it effected Henry VII’s early reign, the search for the actual battleground and battle relics, and a postscript on the discovery of Richard III’s skeleton. Skidmore is both entertaining with these chapters and also very knowledgeable. The book is supplemented with two full-color color plates with one focusing on Bosworth relics adding to a memorable piece. On a negative end, there are no end notes or annotations and the bibliography is cluttered.
Despite some complaints, “The Rise of the Tudors is undoubtedly Skidmore’s strongest work to date and is standout with its spunky look at the events leading to the Battle of Bosworth and the battle, itself. The work is more recommended for those with already-existing knowledge on the topic as the style is unique and the look at history is original compared to the ‘usual’ books. “The Rise of the Tudors” will reignite passion in those readers who perhaps have exhausted themselves regarding the topic. “The Rise of the Tudors” is not to be missed. ...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
What can one say about Shakespeare’s work which has not already been said? Probably not much. However, what can be said about the blackened reputationWhat can one say about Shakespeare’s work which has not already been said? Probably not much. However, what can be said about the blackened reputation of the “villainous hunchback” Richard III? Well, that could (and does) fill volumes. Shakespeare’s histories may be a little biased and somewhat humorous; but they certainly provide entertainment. These traits transgress to the famous play, “Richard III”.
“Richard III” encompasses both tragedies and comedic elements although the comedic elements are not always forthright and are more detected by those readers familiar with the topic and spider webs of Richard, Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville, the Princes in the Tower, etc. Shakespeare’s work is dated in the sense that it may have entertained the masses at large closer to the actual time of the events; while today it is more pleasurable to those with interest in the Wars of the Roses.
“Richard III” is (on the average) historically accurate, but it is still a play and thus Shakespeare does take historical liberties which is where some of the comedic elements enter the spotlight (who can ignore Margaret of Anjou’s outburst/prophecy?). Shakespeare also adds a certain degree of pity, revealing the “pathetic” sides of the characters. This lightens the play and demonstrates that whether a murderer or innocent; everyone has a level of guilt to a certain degree. Of course (as this was pro-Tudor); Richard III is portrayed as the terrible, ugly, murderous uncle. Yet, the reader can also feel some of his loneliness, pain, and feelings of being a general outcast (whether this was true or not).
Unlike some of Shakespeare’s other works, “Richard III” has a steady, entertaining pace which provides an easy read comparable to a (very) light historical fiction novel. Furthermore, it doesn’t fail to provide meaningful verse or metaphors with several standout quotes that a reader will be induced to put to paper (I would include them here but why bore you). “Richard III” also drips with irony (adding to the comedy end) and has terrific nonchalant moments such as when Richard decides to murder his nephews and mentions it with as much ease as asking for water to drink.
Although I wasn’t a fan of how many of the female character were portrayed as weaklings; the interactions between Richard/Cecily Neville and Richard/Elizabeth Woodville (when discussing the possibility of Richard’s marriage to Elizabeth of York) were very realistic and filled with emotion. However, the dialogue between Richard and Elizabeth are cut short as she substantiates hating Richard (to his face) but then suddenly just agrees to send Elizabeth to his court (although this does still baffle some historians so I guess that makes sense).
The black image of Richard III a la Tudor propaganda is firmly entrenched by visits from the ghosts of Richard’s enemies (it wouldn’t be Shakespeare without ghosts, now would it?) and by the opposite messages provided by the orations to their soldiers by Richard and Henry Tudor, respectively.
The ending felt rushed (even for a play) as the Battle of Bosworth’s highlight (the death of William Brandon and the saving of the day by Stanley’s troops) was nonexistent and could have been explored more.
Overall, a pure pro-Tudor piece but an enjoyable look at Richard III, nonetheless. “Richard III” is suggested for Tudor lovers or those seeking a light historical read regarding the Wars of the Roses. ...more
Richard III has a clear reputation as a villain. The Princes in the Tower (his nephews he allegedly murdered) are steadily portrayed as innocent littlRichard III has a clear reputation as a villain. The Princes in the Tower (his nephews he allegedly murdered) are steadily portrayed as innocent little lambs led into slaughter. What if Richard III was NOT the murderer of his nephews? Who was? This is the theme of the mystery novel, “The Daughter of Time”.
A combination of mystery, history, and academic study; Josephine Tey’s “The Daughter of Time” is unlike any other mystery book (don’t expect an Agatha Christie). In fact, it is less of a mystery novel and more of a history discussion as the mystery of Richard III and the “Princes in the Tower” has already been “written”. Tey’s bed-ridden character of Alan Grant pursues an academic research in order to “solve” the mystery.
The Daughter of Time is written mostly in a dialogue form with much of the investigation taking place via conversations versus actual events. This gives a very unique look at history and Richard III. At times, the set-up can be redundant in the sense that Alan discusses the murders of the Princes with each person who walks into his hospital room, therefore, if you expect action; you will be sorely disappointed. The unique blend of history investigation blended with a current plot is seamless, distinctive, and compelling. The reader does not become lost with too much ‘back-and-forth’ and becomes enveloped in the history lesson and drama. Although Tey doesn’t dive deep into Alan’s character development or to those of his visiting comrades, the reader DOES get to know each character through their knowledge and reactions to Richard III which creates solid personalities and dispositions.
The prose style is written almost in a play/theatre form. The reader can almost envision a sold-out playhouse with the novel as a stage play, with historical figures from the Plantagenets and Tudors in the audience receiving “shout-outs” as they are mentioned throughout. Perhaps this reflects on Tey’s own theatre background. Although this may make the novel sound amateur to you; it includes snippets and quotes from actual history books as Alan reads them himself, which teaches history while entertaining the reader (perfect for Anglophiles).
There were some frustrating points, as Tey is clearly biased toward the innocence of Richard III; which bleeds through on the character of Alan. A real criminal investigator should have a clean, unbiased slate but Alan made his mind up quite early on, from which the remainder of the book progresses. Plus, some of the points made were not explored enough and caused me to want to debate with the character/author on explanations I have read in other books (although, this may simply be based on the fact that the book was published in 1951 and more information has come to light since).
One of the biggest absent points within the novel’s investigation was the lack of exploring the motive of the murders of the Princes. Motive is always explored when a crime (especially a murder) has occurred. These were briefly mentioned but not with the depth which could be convincing, with “case closed” severity.
The Daughter of Time has a steady pace and is surprisingly a page-turner even though the setting never leaves one room. Although I did not agree with the conclusion or some of the points argued; it presented a new viewfinder for my subsequent readings on the Princes and Richard III. The Daughter of Time is a quick supplement to those readers interested in the Princes in the Tower. ...more
If the Princes in the Tower were Hollywood actors, their disappearance would be a scandal for the ages. Who am I kidding? Their death at the hands ofIf the Princes in the Tower were Hollywood actors, their disappearance would be a scandal for the ages. Who am I kidding? Their death at the hands of their uncle Richard III (supposedly) is a scandal and is my favorite real-life mystery. Bertram Fields, an entertainment lawyer, breaks down the case using court/trial analysis in “Royal Blood”.
“Royal Blood” is a very unique piece, combining a traditional history portrait with a modern-day courtroom breakdown. Fit for both new-comers to the topic (as “Royal Blood” thoroughly retells the background from the “Wars of the Roses” onward to Henry VII’s reign) and for those well-versed on the subject (a great refresher course); “Royal Blood” is an engaging work which will satisfy most readers. Admittedly, Bertram’s work can be overwhelming with its extreme detail and is not an “easy” work in the sense that light reading is encouraged in order to truly retain all of Bertram’s “investigation”.
Bertram’s research is truly remarkable resulting in many “a-ha!” moments and alternative views which the reader may not previously have considered. Bertram examines every area possible from biases of historians (both contemporary and modern), motives of those surrounding Richard and the Princes, wording of documents and quotes, dates and alibis, etc. Although Bertram doesn’t come across new facts per se; it feels like he does because of his exposed angles. Even the actual figures involved would learn about their own actions, having read “Royal Blood”!
My complaint with “Royal Blood” is that although Bertram doesn’t display outright biases, it is quite evident throughout that he is pro-Ricardian as his presentation of Richard’s opposition is weak in comparison. Not to mention, there are moments when Richard displays ruthless ambition and behavior which the opposing parties could question but Bertram just glosses over it.
Another annoying aspect is Bertram’s constant bashing and attempts to discredit Alison Weir’s book on the Princes. I understand the “love it or hate it” support (or lack thereof) of Weir, but the constant mentions were tedious. Is Bertram writing a book simply to harass Weir or to instead investigate the disappearance of the Princes? Sometimes, one can’t tell and Bertram seems childish.
There are also moments when Bertram repeats himself several times in one section to make sure his point is made. This loses reader attention and some credibility (we get it, already!).
Despite these complaints, the pace of “Royal Blood” is strong and even with its depth of information, is accessible and easy to understand by a modern reader. Although Bertram is not a historian, it is impressive how much he knows about the topic. I was pleasantly surprised as I was worried about his credibility. Then again, he never called himself an expert, so the reader has to take it with a grain of salt, anyway.
One of the highlights in “Royal Blood” is the chapter on Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. This is one of my favorite areas and Bertram satisfies with a well-layered stripping, exploring many theories. Bertram continues to make astounding yet simple points (I had many regrets of “Why didn’t I think of that?!”) until the very end including such topics as Richard’s supposed humpback and the identity of the bones thought to be that of the Princes. Bertram’s theories are clear, rational, and make sense throughout.
Personally, I was let down by the lack of direct quotes (very rare) and a proper notes or bibliography section (notes were absent and the bibliography was very limited). This will not gratify the reader who likes to check historical notation.
Whether you are for or against Richard, Bertram’s “Royal Princes” is a terrific read to receive an all-around understanding of the Princes of the Tower and will definitely spark further debate or thought from the reader in a very creative and unique way. ...more