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Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  304 ratings  ·  53 reviews
September 1613.

In Belvoir Castle, the heir of one of England’s great noble families falls suddenly and dangerously ill. His body is ‘tormented’ with violent convulsions. Within a few short weeks he will suffer an excruciating death. Soon the whole family will be stricken with the same terrifying symptoms. The second son, the last male of the line, will not surv
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published August 29th 2013 by Jonathan Cape
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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 ·  304 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Sep 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
Tracy Borman gave a talk on this book at the 2013 Lincoln Book Festival, which I attended with my Mum, who now works at Lincoln Castle where two of the three women this book focusses on, Margaret and Phillipa Flower, were imprisoned and executed as witches (their mother, Joan Flower, died on the way to gaol). In her talk, Borman captivatingly discussed the threat 'cunning women', those who knew herb lore, provided love charms, helped at childbirths and sickbeds and such, posed to the patriarchal ...more
V.E. Lynne
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it
In 1613, the aristocratic Manners family of Belvoir Castle was plunged into crisis. Both their sons died within months of each other of sudden, unspecified illnesses and local witch Joan Flower, plus her two daughters Margaret and Philippa, were suspected of cursing the boys to death. All three women were captured, an experience that Joan did not survive, but a worse fate lay in store for her children. Tracy Borman's book, despite the title, does not focus very much on the Flower women or the tr ...more
Samantha Bee
Starting with the positive first, the book was an interesting read about a family and a witch trial I knew little if anything about. Plenty of sources but also easy to get through. However, I was expecting this to focus on James I and the trials he was more involved in and not the Manners family. I also found Borman speculated way too often, and that she failed to understand the concept of internalised misogyny, stating at one point that the accusations made against women weren't necessarily sex ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review written in 2014

In September 1613, in Belvoir Castle in the north-eastern corner of Leicestershire, the heir of ‘one of England’s great noble families falls suddenly and dangerously ill. Within a few short weeks he will suffer an excrutiating death’. His entire family then succumb to the same ‘terrifying symptoms’, and the blame is soon pressed upon a local family of women, believed to be witches. This case is the one which Tracy Borman has decided to focus upon in her newest book, Wi

This is the first book I read by Tracy Borman as I have always been fascinated by the European witch craze of the 15th-18th centuries, when suspected witches were burned, hanged, or tortured by the thousand. Tracy starts off with the famous case of the which the Earl of Rutland’s sons mysteriously died but was soon linked to witches aka the Flower girls who had apparently casted a curse (mother and two daughters).
Tracy does not just look at this particular case but looks at the general period o
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Four hundred years ago, in March 1619, sisters Margaret and Philippa Flower were executed as witches. Their mother, Joan, had also been accused and had died on the way to their incarceration. They were charged in connection with the deaths of the children of the Earl of Rutland, one of the biggest names in the court of James I. Borman's book looks at the case of the Flower women and highlights the witch hunts across Europe and other trials on British shores. This was a fascinating look at a dark ...more
(I did skim read a lot of this because it wasn’t all relevant to my dissertation and I simply don’t have the time to read the rest!)

Tracy Borman is such a good writer; she can even make the sad tales of women being hunted for witchcraft interesting and spectacular. This was such an fascinating way into looking at witches during James’ reign - she focused on one particular case that branches out into all different things (evidence/proof, examination, tests, how they were tried, their
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.75 stars. As someone who loves both history and English, I found this fascinating.
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book claims to tell the story of the witch trial of two sisters and a mother during the reign of James I of England, using a variety sources on a number of other witch trials to fill in the gaps. But those gaps are massive and even though the book is well-researched, there aren't many reliable facts to tell.
The pamphlets Tracy Borman uses as her main sources she tears down as politically motivated and unreliable and all of the other sources of information about the witch trials lead her to
Fascinating subject area and an enjoyable book overall. However, the analysis sometimes veered to the pedestrian, hence the three stars.
Ashley Catt
Whilst the book is titled 'James I and the English Witch Hunts' it is actually more of an in depth look at the trial of the Belvoir witches. Whilst I say this, I must add that the author provides a lot of background and context to both English and (particularly) Scottish witch-trials, and also to a limited extent witch hunting on the continent. I notice that this is something of a bone of contention among the reviews here, however personally I think that it is useful to place the trials within s ...more
Emmanuel Gustin
Writing a history of a the Belvoir witchcraft case and the three women of the Flower family who were accused of witchcraft was an interesting idea. Unfortunately, it seems that the source material on the case is limited to a pamphlet written years after the case came to trial. The pamphlet was a best-seller in its day, but that doesn't make it more reliable. Tracy Borman compensates by quoting richly from other sources, and that mostly makes for an interesting and readable book.

Unfortunately, t
Sophy H
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. A fascinating tale of the Belvoir witch trial. Yes it is probably researched via one source and yes it veers to the sensational but it highlights the endless misogyny within society and the wanton murder of women who never quite moulded to the socially acceptable image of a woman. Hysteria = ignorance = mass murder. What a funny superstitious little species we are.
Elizabeth Fremantle
Keenly observed and brilliantly researched, Boorman, offers a glimpse into the paranoia and superstition of the early Jacobean period. A compelling read.
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Trigger/Content Warnings: This book features discussion of mob-mentality, violence, abuse, sexual assault, torture, death, murder, and various forms of execution, such as people being hanged, burnt at the steak, and pressed.

As I've been studying witchcraft, I've found there to be a great focus on our ancestors, those who came before, and remembering what witches of the past have been through. I spotted Witches by Tracy Borman while visiting Treadwell's Books, and knew this was going to be the book to get m
Eddie Clarke
Very disappointing. Although there is a chapter on James, and he is dutifully name-checked in subsequent chapters, in all there is not enough here to justify him being in the title.

It is sometimes a good tactic for a historian to view a historical phenomenon through the lens of a specific example of that phenomenon. Norman does that here by focussing on the Belvoir witchcraft case - three witches who supposedly bewitched and murdered the two young sons of the Earl of Rutland.

There a
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a good review of the witch craze but the specific witch trial it examines has too little information to be other than speculation, too often it translates speculation into fact without realising and this removes a lot of its effectiveness.
And just once i would like an author on this subject to realise that the idea that there were no actual witches is just that, an assumption, at the time and for centuries afterwards the existence of magic was considered to be real so when it is stated as
Mark Farley
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The very brilliant historian and Chief Curator of the Royal Palaces, Tracy Borman returns with an insightful and scandalous tale of a mother and her two daughters in Leicestershire caught up in one of the most infamous scandals of the 17th Century obsession with witchcraft, while documenting the history of this phenomenon in Jacobean Britain. Which is horrifying and violent and bemusing all the same to us simple modern folk.

Whilst definitely not a book for modern day feminists, all of them must
Interesting. I see that the book's title has been changed, which makes sense. I was expecting an in-depth exploration of a specific witch trial, but found it to be on the life and passions of King James I and his rule over the UK.

Still, I really enjoyed the socio-political analysis reasoning out the fear and fever for hunting witches, but was disappointed in the flimsy amount of detail of the Belvoir witch trial itself and the information known about the Flower women.

For a supposed look into t
Reading this hot on the heels of Paula Hawkins' "Into the Water", the suffering and persecution of these women rings familiar.
It is meticulously researched and rich in detail, but doesn't really offer much in sympathy and analysis, apart from the perfunctory. There is too much jumping around between suspected witches, quoting from other works and bashful assumptions to really make this story the author's own.
Notwithstanding it gives a grim peek into the life and little worth given to
Rachael Eyre
This would have been a solid four stars if the book had stuck to historical fact. It offered a fascinating insight into the witch craze and the period, despite the author's writing style being on the simplistic side.

But towards the end it swerved into full on conspiracy theory, implicating the Duke of Buckingham in a bizarre murder plot to get his hands on the Rutland dynasty's fortune. Yes, Villiers was a notorious rake, but where is the proof? Unless he was actually tried and found
Mark Taylor
Even though the narrative centred around a single witch trial, the book is rather unfocused. There is a wealth of irrelevant detail that serves merely to highlight the author's erudition, while burying any points made in a quagmire of quotes and citations.
There were a lot of broken links. To take just one example - at the start of the book, there is a fair amount said about the Manners family history and their Catholicism, a theme that has little bearing on subsequent events.
The overall e
Jamie Rose
Mostly fascinating, especially since I live locally to the area all the events happened. Accessible but in-depth analysis of the witchcraft persecution of the 16 & 17th centuries, seen through the lens of this particular high-profile case.

Did become a little prone to repitition as it went on, and I could have done without the Seriously Ominous Foreshadowing at the end of each chapter - I think we all know it's not going to end well, ta.

Also, minor points in the overal
Paige  Worrall
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I absolutely loved this book. It doesn't just give an insight into the case of the Belvoir witches. It provides an affective analysis of the 'witch craze' and uses the Belvoir case to back up her points. The book also provides an insight into 17th century society looking at life in rural communities, religious beliefs of the time and also the influence of King James on the prosecution of so called witches.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-authors
As the author's name suggests, this was a bore man. She obviously knows her subject which (no pun intended) is evident from the amount of research that must have been undertaken for her to fill so many pages when, it seems had the story focused purely on the Flower women it would have passed as a short story. Perhaps this would have been better presented as a collection of short stories about witchcraft?
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this. Easy to read despite being a scholarly work. Tracey Borman tells the sad story of the Belvoir witches using all the available evidence and some appropriate conjecture. She always makes clear which is which.
I thought this improved as it went along. Difficult text as it’s written sometimes in old English which can make it hard. It was a very sad read, how women particularly the old or mentally unwell were deemed witches and paid an awful price for it.
Laura Haspel
I had hoped that this book would focus more on the actual Flower family. Instead, it is more of a general history of witchcraft. It drags in parts, but is well-written and -researched. Not Ms Bornan’s best work, but worth the read.
This book would have had 4 stars from me if I had not listened to the audio book. For some reason the reader made the decision to use a variety of ridiculous accents throughout the narrative, this was incredibly annoying.
Very insightful to the era of witchcraft with some very interesting pieces of knowledge
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Tracey Borman is a historian and author from Scothern, United Kingdom. She is most widely known as the author of Elizabeth's Women.

Borman was born and brought up in the village of Scothern, England near Lincoln. She was educated at Scothern Primary School (now Ellison Boulters School), William Farr School, Welton, and Yarborough School, Lincoln. She taught history at the University of