Saturday, 14 January 2017

Best Books of 2016

Here's a list of some of the best books I read in 2016.  Most are non-fiction, although I did read a lot of non-fiction, but only 1 makes my list.

1.  Isabella of France, Rebel Queen, by Kathryn Warner.  A superb book about Edward II's Queen and how her marriage was actually happy, to begin with!  In hindsight, we have the benefit of knowing that Isabella was successful in her coup, but she was treading an unknown path.  As usual with Kathryn Warner, there is a great deal of supporting evidence from exemplary research.

2.  Game of Queens, the women who made 16th Century Europe, by Sarah Gristworth.  A superb book that makes you realise the 16th Century had many powerful women, who though they may not be Queens, acted as regents or wielded immense power behind the throne.  Their names were well-known to me, but I knew very little about the life of Margaret of Angouleme and Margaret of Austria - I do now and their lives were fascinating.

3.  The Private Lives of the Tudors by Tracy Borman.  Borman's 'Thomas Cromwell' made it onto a previous list, and this book is a great read as well.  Lots of facts about the Tudors - some hidden, some well-known, and some, erm, not quite true.   

4.  In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII  by Sarah Morris.  A comprehensive guide to all the places that have a connection to the wives of Henry VIII.   

5. Red Roses: from Blanche of Lancaster to Margaret Beaufort by Amy Licence.  Really enjoyed this book about the 'Red Roses' of Lancaster.  I knew very little about Blanche of Lancaster and found her story intriguing, while my admiration of Margaret Beaufort grew even more!

6.  Prince Arthur, the Tudor King who never was, by Sean Cunningham.  A superb account of the life of Prince Arthur.  I often feel Arthur is a maligned figure in Tudor history, written off as a sickly youth, when this is far from the truth, but this myth continues to be perpetuated in both fiction and non-fiction. 2016 saw yet another novel about Katherine of Aragon and her 'sickly' bridegroom.  Cunningham shows how Arthur was vital to the plans of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and the training that was invested in him to be king.  Arthur and his family knew his destiny from birth.  If Arthur were the sickly bridegroom so often reported, how strange no-one commented on it on his wedding day, when he would be 'on view' to the public.   It served the interests of others to proclaim Arthur as sickly.  Arthur is one Tudor personality I often think about 'what if....?'  He would have been far more capable than his brother Henry.

7.  Crown of Blood:  the deadly inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, by Nicola Tallis    Superb account of the life of Lady Jane Grey - whose life was clearly not her own.   Quite rightly puts the blame where it deserves to be - on the shoulders of the Duke of Northumberland.

8.  'Wars of the Roses - Ravenspur' by Conn Iggulden   I cannot find the words to say how much I enjoyed this series of books by Conn Iggulden, and mourn the fact there will be no more.  The tension builds towards the Battle of Barnet and even though you know what is going to happen, it's almost unbearable.  Although fiction, it enhanced my admiration for Warwick the Kingmaker.  I will miss Derry Brewer!

9.  'The Wars of the Roses - the Key Players' by Matthew Lewis.  An account of who and where that makes everything clear in this confusing period of history.

10.  The King's Bed - Sex, Power and the court of Charles II, by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh.  Made me realise how fickle and weak Charles II actually was.

Thursday, 5 January 2017


Something a bit different today.   The tale of a Welsh New Year custom - Mari Llwyd - it has 2 meanings - either 'The Grey Mare' or 'Holy Mary'.  I've actually attended a 'performance' of 'Mari Llywd' in recent years.  Here's an article from the Museum of Wales which explains the customThe Mari Llywd