Anne Somerset rss

Two scenes in Henry VIII’s Psalter, illuminated by Jean Mallard, depict the king as David: (right) in the role of penitent and (left) fighting the mighty Goliath of Pope Paul III

Tudor, by Leanda de Lisle - review

10 August 2013
Tudor: The Family Story Leanda de Lisle

Chatto, pp.539, £20, ISBN: 9780701185886

As parvenus, the Tudors were unsurpassed. In the early 15th century no one would have predicted that within a couple of generations these minor Welsh land-owners would mount the English… Read more

Rogues’ gallery: 
Georgiana was ‘a liar, cheat and exploiter of her friends’; her husband, the fifth Duke, was ‘an insensitive and autocratic brute’; while her son was ‘manically self-absorbed’

The Devonshires, by Roy Hattersley - review

4 May 2013
The Devonshires: The Story of a Family and a Nation Roy Hattersley

Chatto, pp.466, £25, ISBN: 9780701186241

Recalling being taken as a teenager on repeated outings to see Chatsworth, Roy Hattersley disarmingly confesses that in those days ‘I was impressed by neither the pictures nor the furniture’.… Read more

An Elizabethan ‘blade’ automatically wore a sword as he went about town

The strange potency of things

10 November 2012
Shakespeare’s Restless World Neil MacGregor

Allen Lane, pp.336, £25, ISBN: 9781846146756

Building on the success of his acclaimed Radio 4 series and bestselling book A History of the World in 100 Objects, Neil MacGregor has now successfully narrowed down the format.… Read more


What did he see in her?

2 June 2012
The King’s Mistress: The True and Scandalous Story of the Woman Who Stole the Heart of George I Claudia Gold

Quercus, pp.353, £20

When King George I came over from Hanover in 1714 to claim the crown he had inherited from his distant cousin Queen Anne, he was accompanied by his mistress of… Read more

A conflict of wills

21 October 2009
Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery Eric Ives

Wiley/Blackwell, pp.367, 19.99

It might seem odd that Eric Ives, the acclaimed biographer of Anne Boleyn, should turn his attention to another executed Tudor queen, Lady Jane Grey. As he points out, in… Read more

House-building and husbandry

20 August 2005
Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth Mary S. Lovell

Little, Brown, pp.555, 20

Bess of Hardwick has usually been viewed as a hard-hearted schemer, an unscrupulous woman who triumphed in male-dominated Tudor England by never allowing emotion to impede her ambition. Allegedly driven… Read more

Tricky regime change

7 May 2005
After Elizabeth Leanda de Lisle

HarperCollins, pp.200, 348

At Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in April 1603, the predominant emotion among the spectators was relief. For the past 45 years her subjects had lived in continual terror of being engulfed… Read more

The woman in black

24 January 2004
Catherine de Medici Leonie Frieda

Weidenfeld, pp.440, 20

Catherine de Medici was, quite literally, the original black widow. After her husband, King Henri II of France, was accidentally killed in a jousting contest in 1559, she always dressed… Read more