Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

I just wanted to say Happy New Year to each and every one of my readers, facebook followers and twitter followers. Thank you all for joining me on my first few months of history blogging, you've all made it worth it. It is my hope that you will all continue to join me throughout 2012 as I keep on posting about the areas of history that interest me and I hope interest all you as well.

So Happy New Year everyone. I'll see you all in a few days with my next "Inspirations From History" post!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Even Cesare Borgia is trying to get in on the Christmas Spirit

So, it's Christmas Eve and things are getting rather busy as I try and remember all the last minute bits and pieces that we need for the big day tomorrow. I just wanted to write a quick post to all of you to thank you for your support since I started this blog, and to thank each and every one of my facebook followers. You are all fantastic, and have made my first few months of history blogging absolutely awesome.

I hope each and every one of you have a fantastic Christmas and enjoy every minute of it. I shall return in a couple of days with new blog posts and discussions (around the Borgia's mainly, my obsession with them has gotten a little er...intense!) as well as guest posts and posts on some areas of history I wouldn't normally go for, but have developed in interest in anyway.

Happy Christmas everyone! Now, I have last minute gifts to wrap and baking to do...oh and a bottle of Christmas spiced mead to crack open!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Review: The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir (historical fiction)

Recently I've been delving into the world of historical fiction, reading books such as Alison Weir's "Innocent Traitor" and Ken Follet's "Pillars of the Earth". Historical fiction can be great, if it is written and researched well but more often than not it ends up being an inaccurate, awful thing to read. Very rarely do I come across historical fiction that pulls me in enough so that I can read it in a couple of days, the only ones that I have read lately are "Pillars of the Earth" and "Mistress of the Art of Death" although there have been others throughout the years.

I wanted to write today about the latest historical fiction book I've read, and literally finished a couple of days ago. It was a copy of Alison Weir's "The Lady Elizabeth", and I was looking forward to reading it. I am a huge fan of a lot of Weir's non fiction work, and have found a lot of it to be well written and well researched, but with this novel I was sorely disappointed.

The book itself is the story of Elizabeth I's early life, as she grows up through the execution of her mother, her father's countless wives, her bastard status, living in fear as her sister Mary ascended the throne and she spent time in the Tower. Don't get me wrong, it's well written and I loved how Weir wrote how Elizabeth was feeling at certain points in her life, how she cried when she found out about her mother, and how the execution of Katherine Howard made her sure she never wanted to marry. We also see the incident that happened between Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour when she was staying with Katherine Parr, the sexual tension between the young Elizabeth and the much older Seymour, how they were caught in a passionate embrace which made Katherine send Elizabeth away...

It was at this stage I almost put the book down. It seems that Weir thought it would be a good idea to write about the rumours that Elizabeth bore Thomas' child as if it were true. This was never proven and I'm sure that had their been more to the rumours then as historians we would know more. However these days we can deduce that this did not happen, as the rumours came from the anti-protestant factions at court. Now I understand that this is historical fiction and readers like a bit of scandal but this was going too far for me - Elizabeth, later known as The Virgin Queen, pregnant with Thomas Seymour's child, a child that was miscarried and thrown into the fire as soon as it was born? I don't think so. The problem with this is that if someone does not understand the time period, and read this in a novel written by a respected historian, they will believe it and yet again inaccuracies will be placed in the public mindset. Look at the vilification of Anne Boleyn, and the publication of Phillipa Gregory's "The Other Boleyn Girl" - people already believed Anne to be a whore who slept with countless men, believed her to be a witch (which we of course know she wasn't, and that she was innocent of all charges) but when TOBG came out, people started believing it. I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard people say Anne must have slept with her brother and given birth to a deformed foetus and it must be true because TOBG says so. It makes me want to bash my head against a brick wall. As I said above, it's fiction, a story made up by the author and readers like a bit of scandal, but completely changing history in that sense? It's just awful.

However I carried on, however grudgingly, and made it to the end of the book. Weir's writing was good, and flowed nicely, and I have to say she did tell the story well especially the rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth after Mary took the throne, and I felt Elizabeth's fear as she was taken to the tower, felt how scared she was that she would follow the Lady Jane Grey to the block. There aren't many authors that can do that to their readers, and for that reason I'll be marking this book a little higher than I would have done.

This book is a quick read, and a good one to read if you just want to escape into the past for a little while. I do recommend it to those interested in Tudor historical fiction, although I would say go into with an open mind and take the rather huge inaccuracy with a pinch of salt. But if you'd prefer a more accurate portrayal of Elizabeth then I would go for a non fiction book about her, "Elizabeth" by David Starkey or even Weir's non fiction "Elizabeth the Queen".

I think it's time for me to head back to the non-fiction shelves...

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Execution of Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham

We all know the story of Katherine Howard, Henry VIII's young Queen who was executed on charges of treason, and for her affairs with Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper. The story is a famous one, with Katherine being helped in her endeavours with Thomas by the infamous Lady Rochford (who was executed along with Katherine) - with Thomas losing his head at Tyburn followed by Francis Dereham being hung, drawn and quartered.

On this day in history, 10th December 1541, both men lost their lives for their part in the whole affair. It would have been a gruesome spectacle, Thomas had been granted beheading by the King as he had once been one of his closest grooms whereas Dereham was given the full traitors death.

Showtime's "The Tudors" showed the execution in all it's gruesome glory, and despite how horrible the scenes I thought it was very well done. I have placed the video below, and warning for the is rather gruesome.

Lastly, apologies for my lack of posts recently. I've been on a funny shift pattern at work which has offered me little time to do anything. Oh...and I blame the video game Skyrim also!!