New history books on queens and queenship

As if we haven’t already got enough on our “to read lists, 2016 ended and 2017 began with the releases of more books that look as if they are must-reads for anyone interested in the lives of medieval and Tudor queens. I suppose there are worse ways to ‘go’ than being drowned by books!

Huge congratulations to my fellow MadeGlobal authors Conor Byrne and Roland Hui on the releases of their books on queens.

Roland Hui’s book, The Turbulent Crown: The Story of the Tudor Queens of England, examines the queens of the Tudor dynasty. Here is the blurb:

“Ten remarkable women.
One remarkable era.

In the Tudor period, 1485–1603, a host of fascinating women sat on the English throne. The dramatic events of their lives are told in The Turbulent Crown: The Story of the Tudor Queens of England.

The Turbulent Crown begins with the story of Elizabeth of York, who survived conspiracy, murder, and dishonour to become the first Tudor Queen, bringing peace and order to England after years of civil war. From there, the reader is taken through the parade of Henry VIII’s six wives – two of whom, Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard, would lose their heads against a backdrop of intrigue and scandal.

The Turbulent Crown continues with the tragedy of Lady Jane Grey, the teenager who ruled for nine days until overthrown by her cousin Mary Tudor. But Mary’s reign, which began in triumph, ended in disaster, leading to the emergence of her sister, Elizabeth I, as the greatest of her family and of England’s monarchs.”

In an interview on the MadeGlobal Publishing site – click here – Roland talks about how he sees his book as “a 21st-century ‘Lives of the Queens of England’ (by Agnes Strickland)” and talks about the importance of using primary sources in research.

The Turbulent Crown: The Story of the Tudor Queens of England is available as a kindle book and paperback – click here to view it on your Amazon store now.

Conor Byrne, who many of you will know from his debut book Katherine Howard: A New History has just released his new book Queenship in England: 1308–1485 Gender and Power in the Late Middle Ages which looks at the queens of the Plantagenet dynasty, women who are often overlooked.

Here is the blurb:

“An interesting and accessible exploration of medieval queenship in relation to gender expectations.”
– Amy Licence, author of Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife

“A very readable and thoroughly researched book that looks at the role of late medieval Queens of England in an original way.”
– Toni Mount, author of A Year in the Life of Medieval England

“Between 1308 and 1485, nine women were married to kings of England. Their status as queen offered them the opportunity to exercise authority in a manner that was denied to other women of the time. This book offers a new study of these nine queens and their queenship in late medieval England.

Isabella of France, wife of Edward II
Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III
Anne of Bohemia, wife of Richard II
Isabelle of France, second wife of Richard II
Joan of Navarre, wife of Henry IV
Katherine of Valois, wife of Henry V
Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI
Elizabeth Wydeville, wife of Edward IV
Anne Neville, wife of Richard III

The fourteenth- and fifteenth-centuries were frequently characterised by dynastic uncertainty and political tensions. Scholars have recognised that the kings who ruled during this time were confronted with challenges to their kingship, as new questions emerged about what it meant to be a successful king in late medieval England. This book examines the challenges faced by the queens who ruled at this time. It investigates the relationship between gender and power at the English court, while exploring how queenship responded to, and was informed by, the tensions at the heart of governance.

Ultimately Queenship in England questions whether a new model of queenship emerged from the great upheavals underpinning the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century polity.”

Queenship in England: 1308–1485 Gender and Power in the Late Middle Ages is available as a kindle book and paperback – click here for more details.

And then there’s Gareth Russell’s new biography of Catherine Howard, Young and Damned and Fair: The Life and Tragedy of Catherine Howard at the Court of Henry VIII which is superb (Yes, I’ve read it already!):

England July 1540: it is one of the hottest summers on record and the court of Henry VIII is embroiled, once again, in political scandal. Anne Cleves is out. Thomas Cromwell is to be executed and, in the countryside, an aristocratic teenager named Catherine Howard prepares to become fifth wife to the increasingly unpredictable monarch…

In the five centuries since her death, Catherine Howard has been dismissed as ‘a wanton’, ‘inconsequential’ or a naïve victim of her ambitious family, but the story of her rise and fall offers not only a terrifying and compelling story of an attractive, vivacious young woman thrown onto the shores of history thanks to a king’s infatuation, but an intense portrait of Tudor monarchy in microcosm: how royal favour was won, granted, exercised, displayed, celebrated and, at last, betrayed and lost. The story of Catherine Howard is both a very dark fairy tale and a gripping political scandal.

Born into the nobility and married into the royal family, during her short life Catherine was almost never alone. Attended every waking hour by servants or companions, secrets were impossible to keep. With his research focus on Catherine’s household, Gareth Russell has written a narrative that unfurls as if in real-time to explain how the queen’s career ended with one of the great scandals of Henry VIII’s reign.

More than a traditional biography, this is a very human tale of some terrible decisions made by a young woman, and of complex individuals attempting to survive in a dangerous hothouse where the odds were stacked against nearly all of them. By illuminating Catherine’s entwined upstairs/downstairs worlds, and bringing the reader into her daily milieu, the author re-tells her story in an exciting and engaging way that has surprisingly modern resonances and offers a fresh perspective on Henry’s fifth wife.

YOUNG AND DAMNED AND FAIR is a riveting account of Catherine Howard’s tragic marriage to one of history’s most powerful rulers. It is a grand tale of the Henrician court in its twilight, a glittering but pernicious sunset during which the king’s unstable behaviour and his courtiers’ labyrinthine deceptions proved fatal to many, not just to Catherine Howard.

Young and Damned and Fair is available as a hardback and kindle from – click here, Amazon UK – click here, and as a hardback from other bookstores.

And if that’s not enough, historians Sarah Gristwood and Nicola Tallis also have new books out on queens! Here’s the blurb for Sarah Gristwood’s Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe:

“Two childhood companions, now matriarchs of two opposing powers, calmly set their menfolk aside and declare that they, as women, are better equipped to organise a peace between their warring nations.

An ambitious young woman, debarred by her sex from ascending the throne, nonetheless rules her country and turns her court into an academy where girls are taught how to rule.

A mother tells her daughter to face death rather than give up the sceptre that is her right to wield…

As religion divided sixteenth-century Europe, an extraordinary group of women – queens, consorts and thinkers – rose to power. Despite finding themselves on opposing sides of power struggles both armed and otherwise, through their family ties and patronage they educated and supported each other in a brutal world where the price of failure was disgrace, exile or even death. Theirs was a unique culture of feminine power that saw them run the continent for decades. And yet, as the sixteenth century waned and the Reformation left faultlines across the continent, the Virgin Queen of England was virtually alone as ruler ― a queen surrounded by kings once more.

From mother to daughter and mentor to protégée, Sarah Gristwood follows the passage of power from Isabella of Castile and Anne de Beaujeu through Anne Boleyn – the woman who tipped England into religious reform – and on to Elizabeth I and Jeanne d’Albret, heroine of the Protestant Reformation. Unravelling a gripping historical narrative, she reveals the unorthodox practices adopted by these women in the face of challenges that retain an all-too familiar aspect today, and assesses their impact on the era that began the shaping of the modern world. Epic in scale, this game of queens is a remarkable spectacle of skill and ingenuity.”

Game of Queens is available as a hardback and kindle from – click here, Amazon UK – click here, and as a hardback from other bookstores.

Here’s the blurb for Nicola Tallis’s book Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey

“Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same.

These were the words uttered by the seventeen-year-old Lady Jane Grey as she stood on the scaffold awaiting death on a cold February morning in 1554. Forced onto the throne by the great power players at court, Queen Jane reigned for just thirteen tumultuous days before being imprisoned in the Tower, condemned for high treason and executed.

In this dramatic retelling of an often misread tale, historian and researcher Nicola Tallis explores a range of evidence that had never before been used in a biography to sweep away the many myths and reveal the moving, human story of an extraordinarily intelligent, independent and courageous young woman.”

Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey is available as a hardback and kindle from – click here, Amazon UK – click here, and as a hardback from other bookstores.

And then at the end of 2016 we also had the release of Amy Licence’s book on Catherine of Aragon, Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife, and Elizabeth Norton’s The Lives of Tudor Women – phew!

Please do share in the comments below if you have come across a new (and good!) book on medieval and Tudor queens.

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5 thoughts on “New history books on queens and queenship”
  1. I would just like to point out that the Palgrave Macmillan series “Queenship and Power” has published several books recently. One is entitled “The Birth of a Queen” and is a collection of essays about Mary I, to coincide with the five hundredth anniversary of her birth. It includes essays by well known academics such as Anna Whitelock and Retha Warnicke, and is essential reading for anyone interested in Mary.

    There is also an upcoming volume of essays about the television series The Tudors, exploring a range of topics including Henry VIII, his wives, the costumes, food and drink, etc. It looks like an intriguing read. The only thing is the price, unfortunately academic books are often very expensive.

      1. As I say Claire, these books are very pricey but they are worth reading. “The Birth of a Queen” offers new insights into Mary’s reign and corrects many of the misconceptions about her. It is a shame they are not more available to the general public because, if they were, I feel more people would have a very different sense of Mary and her achievements.

        1. Can I make an old fashioned suggestion? I use an old fashioned institution that we neglect in this country, which is why many sadly are closing, but the main ones are around, called a library. You can find a library online at Government local sites, or the library catalogue world library, or or many more, just Google find a book in a library and a whole list comes up. You can get a list of libraries with a copy near you. I have reserved a copy and it is being sent from my central library to my local one. I am looking forward to reading this.

          I can’t speak for the other books…but Crown of Blood is fabulous. I have the one Game of Queens but it will have to wait as I have two others on the go at present and Katherine of Aragon by Amy Linence, both for Christmas. I have downloaded Conors book and it looks well done. Love the illustrations. I have a bug about books with no illustrations or maps or charts. Even in academia a portrait of the subject at the front would be nice. Love books…have a book brain, am addicted to books….wish I could afford more book. I still use the library as some books are very expensive. I would just like to encourage people if books are expensive please use a library…take your kids to share and learn class at your local library where you can buy a cheap book and then donate it back for another child to read. I understand authors may prefer you buy and yes I would agree, but with very special books and academic books, supply is often limited, so they are more expensive. I would say buy all books if you can, but there are some of us with a little budget, so I apologise, but I have to say please also use a library as it will vanish if not used. All of Claire’s books are very reasonable so please buy all of them, but if not, I am sure she won’t mind if the odd people get from a library. For this very expensive but excellent recommendation book on Queen Mary, I would say use a library.

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