First line: One of the oldest and most precious items in the collection of Chequers House, the country residence of Britain’s prime ministers, is a tiny, exquisitely crafted ring, fashioned from mother-of-pearl and embossed with rubies and diamonds.
Summary: In Tracy Borman’s newest book she explores the lives and connections between Anne Boleyn and her daughter Queen Elizabeth I. Rather than just a straight biography of the two women she looks at how they shaped and changed each other. Anne died while Elizabeth was a toddler leaving a legacy that Elizabeth had to contend with her whole life but she persevered and honored her mother in all she did.
My Thoughts: I am always excited to read Tracy Borman’s books. She is an excellent historian who I have followed and envied for years. She gets to spend her days at the palaces of England studying the history of each location. I found her newest book to be very interesting and I actually learned stuff while reading it. I have spent years reading everything about Anne Boleyn so it is always fun to learn new stuff about her. Having heard for years that Elizabeth never mentioned her mother it was fascinating to see that she actually honored her through much of her life.
My favorite part was hearing how Elizabeth used her mother’s emblems and mottos during her lifetime. I never understood why Elizabeth never tried to rehabilitate or reinter her mother’s remains but Borman does a good job of explaining the possible reasons behind the choice. And rather than forcing people to change their opinions about Anne, she subtly displayed her around her kingdom and throughout her court. It shocked me how many of her Boleyn relatives and supporters surrounded her during her reign. I knew of her association with her Carey cousins but the extended family and friends was new information for me. I like to think that they talked about their memories with the queen and shared admiration for Anne to her daughter.
For any fan of Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth I, this is a must read! It is informative and interesting read. It may be one I buy for my own collection. I can see myself reading it again in the future.
Summary: Elizabeth of York is the oldest child of King Edward IV of England. She has grown up during a time of battles between the houses of Lancaster and York. Her life has been spent in palaces but also in sanctuary. However, after the death of her father she is thrown into an even more treacherous world. Her uncle Richard takes the crown from her younger brother who should be King Edward V. With her brothers’ disappearance and her uncle as king she must live in limbo as the heir to the throne or a pawn that can be used. But has her savior come in the form of the Lancastrian claimant, Henry Tudor? Can she unite the two houses and bring peace to England?
My Thoughts: Elizabeth of York is an interesting woman. She lived through so much and made history but lived for such a short time. She was only 37 when she died. I had the privilege of visiting her grave this spring while at Westminster Abbey. It is a beautiful tomb next to her husband, Henry VII.
Weir does a wonderful job bringing the life and politics of the Wars of the Roses to life. The tension can be felt during the Elizabeth’s time in sanctuary or living through the years of her uncle Richard’s reign. Having to navigate the different factions, choose a side and make sure to stay alive throughout the regime changes must have been hard on everyone at the time.
I did learn a bit more about the lives of Elizabeth’s sisters during this story. They were used to make alliances with English nobles and suffered many losses in their lives. I would love to see more done about their lesser known stories.
The part I found most interesting was Elizabeth and her relationship with her son Arthur. I don’t know if there is any evidence behind Weir’s storyline but it makes me wonder. It is a struggle she has to deal with until her death. Did she love him enough? And why did she feel different towards him than she did to her other children?
Even though I did enjoy this book I found that it was a little long. Some parts seemed to drag on in the middle. I felt like it was a slower version of Philippa Gregory’s novel, The White Princess.
FYI: This is the beginning of a trilogy by Alison Weir. The next book will follow Elizabeth’s son, Henry VIII.
On my most recent trip to Germany I had the privilege to visit Dusseldorf and Schloss Burg, the home of Anna of Kleve. Before I visited my brother in law told me about this castle. I knew I had to see it for myself. It was a long hike through the woods and up the hill to this fortress but it was worth every step. It overlooks the town of Solingen, a picturesque town in Western Germany. Even though very little is mentioned about Anna at the castle it is where she spent much of her childhood leading up to her marriage to King Henry VIII.
First line: Anna peered through the window of the gatehouse, watching the chariot trundling through below, enjoying the rich sensuousness of the new silk gown she was wearing, and conscious of her parents’ expectations of her.
Anna of Kleve is the daughter of a German duke. She is raised to be the
wife of a powerful man. When Henry VIII is unexpectedly widowed, he is
in search of a fourth wife. His ministers look to Anna for this honor.
As Anna embarks on the journey to England she worries about what her
life will be like as the Queen of England. After her initial encounter
with her future husband her worries mount. Does he like her? He does not
appear to. However, as the first months of her marriage progress her
worries begin to vanish. Then she receives news that the king has grave
doubts about their union. What does this mean for Anna? Will he send her
to her death like one of her predecessors?
My Thoughts: Anna is probably one of the least talked about of Henry’s wives. I have read numerous books about the other five but she seems to be largely forgotten. This is rather sad because she was probably the luckiest of the six wives.
I really enjoyed learning more about her life before, during and after her marriage. She led such a sheltered life before coming to England. I cannot imagine the shock of life in Henry’s court compared to Kleve. And the fact that her husband is an obese man who had killed a previous wife. How terrifying! Her reign as queen was a very short lived one. However, she seemed to have made quite an impression on the people of England. I was very frustrated reading about the struggles she had to deal with after the death of the king. She was an important lady and was treated very badly by the men who ran the government of the new king, Edward VI.
Weir took a lot of liberties with the history by adding in a romance that has no basis in fact. Even though it deviates from the record it was fun to read and imagine that Anna had some love in her life.
This is not a book that can be read quickly. There is tons of information, characters and time to cover. I spent several weeks slowly working my way through the narrative but I found it fascinating. Weir does a great job bringing life to the wives. I am highly anticipating her books on Katheryn Howard and Katherine Parr.
FYI: This is book four in the Six Tudor Queens series by Alison Weir.
Summary: Jane Seymour is the daughter of knight. With aspirations of becoming a nun, she did not consider that life at court was in her future. However, when her plans to join a nunnery change she joins the household of Queen Katherine, the wife of Henry VIII. Jane is devoted to the queen so when a maid of honor, Anne Boleyn, starts to attract the king, Jane must decide where her loyalties lie. When Anne becomes queen, Jane is forced to serve her. As Anne’s power wanes the king’s eye begins to stray. Jane becomes the focus of his attention and his future queen.
Highlights: Weir’s portrayal of Jane Seymour is the best one I have read. Jane is a very boring queen. She has very little time to establish herself in history but what we know of her is that she was meek and obedient. At least this is what we assume but in The Haunted Queen we get a little bit of fire injected in to her character. She has opinions, thoughts and questions. Even though she is afraid to voice them, we as the reader get a look into her mind and see more than the quiet mouse she is remembered as.
Lowlights: I felt that more of the book was centered around Anne Boleyn (who is my favorite of Henry’s wives). We see the events unfold through Jane’s eyes but not much about Jane herself. Which leaves a small portion at the end of story to center around her time as queen.