Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Few Stray Tudors

I just devoured "The Thistle and the Rose" by Hester Chapman.  This work detailed the lives of two more Tudors I knew nothing of - sisters to Henry VIII (daughters of Henry VII) - Mary and Margaret Tudor.  A long tortuous road for Margaret as Queen of Scotland from a young age was dealt with at three times the length of the relatively simple and straightforward life of Mary as, briefly, Queen of France and then Duchess of Suffolk.

Of course, the plain one, Margaret, received the tougher shakes of life.  And Mary, universally considered beautiful,  was able to enjoy Tudor court life for much longer, have a brief (82 day) reign as Queen to Louis XII, thence to marry her long true love.  One a nightmare, the other a fairy tale.  One in the wild inhospitable poorly managed land of Scotland, the other in the rich realm of France.

I side with Margaret.  She needed all the help she could get.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Late Introduction

Sometimes I am amazed that, learning English history so arbitrarily it seems, there are sizeable areas of which I know very little. Chance brings me to who looks to be an underappreciated king, Henry VII. I read a fairly dense piece of historical fiction by Roberta Gellis (written in the 70's, I believe) - "The Dragon and the Rose". The cast of characters, including Elizabeth Woodville as a manipulative catty shrew, Elizabeth of York as an innocent princess torn between mother and husband, Margaret Beaufort as a well meaning presence who gently dominates her son was believably drawn. Since I don't know much about any of these people, and thus can't fully appreciate the novel, I am spurred to learn more.

Finally, a good Lancastrian. Of course he had to be suspicious of his Yorkist in-laws, as well as his queen. He is portrayed here as being a good family man, a scrupulous king with a sense of humor, and a lover of show. The world view and inner workings of people of the middle ages were so different from how we stack up internally now, so historical fiction that portrays people through our lens may be misleading. If the King died of a broken heart, losing Prince Arthur and Elizabeth in short order, he seems an example of the fact that grief is timeless and basic to human relations.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

116 years

of making fortunes, plunder, misery, abject poverty, and so on.  Starting with Edward III, carried on through the Black Prince, England, a poor, sparsely inhabited country, systematically plundered and made miserable one of untold riches.  In this context Henry V had a bit of Bush in him, an unshakable belief in his own calling to arms, a pronounced piety, and the continuance of the bankrupting of the English state in order to pay for the war.  Something I didn't know, from Mr. Seward, is that the 7 years after Henry's death from that most military of causes (dysentery) were the most successful years for the English in France.  This mostly due to his brother, the Duke of Bedford (shown left here)

Without the Hundred Years War, perhaps the Wars of the Roses would have been avoided. Did the fall of Lancastrian France presage the eventual fall of the House of Lancaster?  Also, an internecine strife extant between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs was in the mix.  Of course a series of events such as the Wars of the Roses doesn't happen in isolation.  Of course, in a general sense, nothing happens in isolation.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Lady Jane

Just finished In the Shadow of Lady Jane by Edward Charles. Despite some internal problems, I think it a good addition to the historical fiction genre. Lady Jane Grey and Lady Catherine Grey can be compared to the young ladies in Sense and Sensibility - Lady Jane representing reason and Lady Catherine emotion. The hero of the novel is one Richard Stocker, a precocious rising star in Tudor England.

It is good to get a male point of view. It is going to be hard for me to use H6 as a narrator, so this book was instructive. However, Richard Stocker is very capable, and comfortable in a variety of social situations. He has no military experience, nor does he obtain any. Other than that, he is at 16, the consummate servant.

Now, of late, I have read works of historical fiction taking place in three different centuries. It is time to tuck into some historical fact - I believe I will attempt the popular historian Desmond Seward.