Wednesday, June 30, 2010
3rd Book Review for the Tudor Mania Challange at The Burton Review
The Tudor Queens of England by David Loades
Summary: In this biography of Tudor Queens, David Loades summarizes the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of 12 Tudor Queens and 2 'almost' Tudor queens. Starting with Catherine de Valois, Queen to Henry V, the queens are separated into several categories such as Trophy, Dominatrix, Lover, Helpmate, Foreign Ally, Domestic Queens, Whore, Queens Who Never Were, Married Sovereign, Unmarried Sovereign, and concluding with a very brief history of Queens since 1603.
My thoughts: This is only my second attempt at reading a non-fiction book related to the Tudors. (The first was The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Allison Weir). Since my last Tudor read had left me disappointed, I had a craving for facts and David Loades is successful at creating a non-bias summary of some of my favorite Tudor Queens.
I admit that the first few chapters were very difficult to get through, but that was only because I had no prior knowledge of the early Tudor Queens. In the story of Catherine de Valois, Queen of Henry V, the focus appeared to be more on life pre- and post- Henry V rather than her actual role as Queen. That may have been because her marriage only lasted 2 years before the death of Henry V. I found myself very confused and searching on-line for some other reference material as to the birth and crowning of her son, Henry VI. Loades writes that he (Henry VI) was born in 1421 and crowned in 1429, which would have made him only 8 years old when he officially took the crown. Although Loades does describe who served as Protector during his minority from 1422-1429, he makes no reference to who served as Protector after his crowning...surely he couldn't have begun running the kingdom at age 8?
The second queen, categorized as ‘Queen as Dominatrix’ was Margaret of Anjou, Queen to Henry VI. The most interesting bit of information that I pulled from this chapter was the controversy that surrounded the legitimacy of her son Edward. I am now on a mission to find a fictional (or not) story that elaborates on this.
Finally, the ‘Queen as Lover’, Elizabeth Woodville, Queen to Edward IV, was one that I have recently become familiar with and was much easier to follow once I made a character map again. (see side note below). The next chapter was devoted to Elizabeth of York, whom I had recently read about in To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell.
SIDE NOTE: I just spent the last 2 hours re-reading the first 2 chapters and searching the Internet because I managed to get myself sooo confused while trying to write this. It was not made clear in this book that Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou had died- so I had inadvertently thought him to be King Edward IV and thought that he married Elizabeth Woodville. If you know much about history though, you know that King Edward IV had 2 brothers, Richard and Clarence. Can you see how I was confused? I was like, “I thought Edward was the only child of Margaret of Anjou….so where did Richard and Clarence come from?” I had to make another character map and it has helped me de-tangle the who’s who of the Tudor line. Okay, back to the review.
The next 3 chapters covered the six wives of Henry VIII. Had I not had prior knowledge of these 6 queens I may have become confused again. Instead of arranging Henry VIII queens in order of their marriage, Loades grouped them into three categories: Foreign, Domestic, and Whore. The only new information I gathered form these chapters was the clarification that Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII and Bessie Blount, died at the age of 18. I don’t know when or where I had been given the impression that he had died younger.
The most interesting decision by Loades was the insertion of a chapter dedicated to 2 queens that never were: Jane Grey and Mary Stuart, although not interesting enough for me to report on here. Loades concludes with very short summaries of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeths reigns which has left me wanting to read further on the two daughters of Henry VIII.
It took me longer than usual to get through this relatively short book (234 pages) because it was non-fiction and was very dense at times. I suppose that I am a glutton for punishment because next on my list is the biography Bloody Mary by Carolly Erickson. Wish me luck!