Leanda de Lisle rss

The divine mask slips: Queen Elizabeth I in old age, weary after a lifetime of inaction (English school)

Pragmatism and procrastination: how Elizabeth I got her way

22 November 2014
Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince Lisa Hilton

Weidenfeld, pp.370, £25, ISBN: 9780297865223

Women are ‘foolish, wanton flibbergibs, in every way doltified with the dregs of the devil’s dunghill’. So a cleric reminded Queen Elizabeth I. His sermon reassured her that her personal… Read more

Portrait of Thomas Cromwell wearing ‘the George’, by Hans Holbein

Thomas Cromwell: more Tony Soprano than Richard Dawkins

23 August 2014
Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant Tracy Borman

Hodder, pp.464, £25, ISBN: 9781444782851

The travel writer Colin Thubron once told me that to understand a country and its people he first asks, ‘What do they believe?’ This is also a good place to… Read more

Both menacing and warm: Ben Miles as Thomas Cromwell

The Thomas Cromwell plays would be stronger if they made him weaker 

18 January 2014
Wolf Hall; Bring Up the Bodies Swan Theatre, Stratford upon Avon

Three things you might not expect of the RSC’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor novels. First, Mike Poulton’s plays have some great jokes. Laugh-your-head-off funny, you might say. Second, although… Read more

Ann Boleyn

Anne Boleyn’s last secret

17 August 2013

With his wife, Anne Boleyn, in the Tower, Henry VIII considered every detail of her coming death, poring over plans for the scaffold. As he did so he made a… Read more

Tinselled royal: ‘Elizabeth I when a Princess’, c.1546, attributed to William Scrots

Royal bling with the Tudors at the Queen’s Gallery and the V&A

15 June 2013

As soon as the battle of Bosworth was won, Henry VII’s politically astute mother sent him appropriate clothing for his state entry into London. A king was expected to look… Read more

Deadly rivals: Richard III (left) and Henry VII

Bosworth, by Chris Skidmore - review

25 May 2013
Bosworth Chris Skidmore

Weidenfeld, pp.437, £20, ISBN: 9780297863762

Although Richard III was five foot eight, his spine was so twisted he stood a foot shorter. Imagine him hacking his way towards Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth;… Read more


His dark materials

3 March 2012
The Arch-Conjuror of England: John Dee Glynn Parry

Yale, pp.336, 25

Like the dyslexic Faustus who sold his soul to Santa, the life of John Dee was a black comedy of errors. His vain and vulgar efforts to harness the occult… Read more

Against all odds

1 October 2011
Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England Thomas Penn

Allen Lane, pp.480, 20

There is something of Gordon Brown in the older Henry VII: an impression of darkness, of paranoia and barely suppressed rage, not to mention the terrifying tax grabs and tormenting… Read more


Progress at a price

7 April 2010
Vietnam: Rising Dragon Bill Hayton

Yale, pp.272, 20

I was sitting recently with a former US marine by one of the huge open windows on the top floor of the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon. Our drinks were being… Read more


A Tudor mystery unravels

7 April 2010

The fate of Lady Mary Grey, Queen Elizabeth’s prisoner and a potential heir to the throne, has never been resolved. Now Leanda de Lisle tells all At the Prime Minister’s… Read more

A keen sense of duty

2 July 2008

William Cecil, Lord Burghley, would be delighted that in his historical afterlife he remains the old man he died as, after 40 years of power. The frail flesh and white… Read more

The return of the maypole

30 May 2007
Return of the King: The Restoration of Charles II Charles Fitzroy

Sutton, pp.252, 20

The return of the king follows a death. As the Lord Protector of the three kingdoms draws his last breath a great storm rises up, blowing down houses, trees and… Read more

The plot thickens

2 May 2007
The Noble Revolt: The Overthrow of Charles I John Adamson

Orion, pp.742, 25

John Adamson’s The Noble Revolt asserts the crucial role of political ideas in the coming cataclysm of the English civil war. His focus is close: the 18 months before the… Read more

Leanda de Lisle

7 June 2006

Researching the dead can feel like being buried alive with them. After months spent with manuscripts and dusty books about the 16th century I even look like a corpse. But… Read more

Leanda de Lisle

14 May 2005

The trouble with country life is that it is so unhealthy. Where I used to walk to the Tube I now take the car. Where I used to go out… Read more