Book Tour Claire Ridgway Day 5

I am very honoured today to be able to host Day Five of Claire Ridgway’s book tour for her new book “Illustrated King’s and Queens of England“. Claire has stopped by today to discuss several scandalous monarchs that have caused quite a few stirs throughout the years!

Claire has also kindly offered a copy of her book to give away to one lucky person! To win all you need to do is leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen at random on the 2nd of December 2016…. it’s as simple as that! And now let’s find out a little bit more about some scandalous monarchs…


Scandalous Monarchs

A big thank you to Sarah Bryson for inviting me to share a guest article with you today as the final stop on my virtual book tour for Illustrated Kings and Queens of England. It’s wonderful to be here!

English history wouldn’t be quite so interesting if it weren’t for royal scandals, would it? Some monarch’s personal lives are like something out of a soap opera, aren’t they? Whereas others appear to be squeaky clean, and perhaps a little boring!

Let’s look at some of the English monarchs whose reigns were tinged by scandal.

Henry VIII (1491-1547)

Divorced, beheaded, died,

Divorced, beheaded, survived.”

That’s the rhyme we tend to learn in childhood about King Henry VIII and his six wives. This larger than life character of a king had married six times but claimed that only two of his marriages were valid. His marriage to Catherine of Aragon had been annulled because convocation had ruled that the Pope had no power to dispense of a marriage between a man and his brother’s widow. His marriage to Anne Boleyn had been annulled following her condemnation for high treason. His fourth marriage, to Anne of Cleves, had been annulled after just six months due to non-consummation and her alleged pre-contract with the Duke of Lorraine, and his fifth marriage to Catherine Howard was deemed invalid due to her past sexual relationships and her condemnation for treason. Only his marriages to Jane Seymour and Catherine Parr were seen as valid.

Henry VIII also had at least one illegitimate child, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset.


George I (1660-1727)

King George I came to the throne following the death of his second cousin, the childless Queen Anne. Although Anne had many closer blood relatives, George was her closest Protestant relative and the 1701 Act of Settlement prevented Catholics from inheriting the throne. One scandal concerning George was his unhappy marriage to his cousin Sophia Dorothea. George took a mistress, Melusine von der Schulenburg, and Sophia took a lover, a Swedish count. This count disappeared mysteriously in 1694 and Sophia, after her marriage to George was dissolved by the king, was thrown into prison at Ahlden Castle in Germany for the rest of her days. But that’s not the only scandal linked to George I, his reign was also rocked by the South Sea Bubble scandal in 1720. The South Sea Company, a British joint-stock company, had been founded in 1711 and had been granted a monopoly to trade with South America in exchange for underwriting the national debt. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan, and the company collapsed in 1720, with people becoming destitute overnight and some committing suicide. The King, two of his mistresses and members of his government, had been involved in the company and so were blamed for what happened.

George IV (1762-1830)

King George IV was the eldest son of King George III and his wife Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He became king in 1820, following the death of his father, but had ruled as prince regent from 1811, due to his father’s mental collapses. He is not only known for his extravagant lifestyle, his love of food and alcohol, he is also known for his love of women. He is said to have collected 7,000 lockets of hair from women he’d had sexual relations with and his mistresses included actress Mary Robinson, the Countess of Jersey, Marchioness of Hertford and Marchioness Conyngham. His marriage to Caroline of Brunswick was unhappy, with the couple separating after the birth of their daughter, Charlotte.


Queen Victoria (1819-1901)

The BBC website describes Queen Victoria as being a queen who “restored the reputation of a monarchy tarnished by the extravagance of her royal uncles”, but her reputation was affected by her relationship with her personal servant, John Brown, following the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert. So close was she to Brown, that she became known as “Mrs Brown”. In 2004, art historian Bendor Grosvenor discovered a letter which gave credence to the idea that the Queen had been in love with Brown. Written in 1883, not long after Brown’s death, it described Victoria’s “present unbounded grief”, Brown as being “one of the most remarkable men who could be known”, and compared his loss to that of Albert’s: “And the Queen feels that life for the second time is become most trying and sad to bear deprived of all she so needs.” It is not firm evidence of a proper relationship but shows just how close queen and servant were.

Edward VIII (1894-1972)

Edward VIII, eldest son of King George V and Mary of Teck, ruled for under a year. He became king on the death of his father on 20th January 1936 but abdicated on 11th December 1936 in favour of his brother, who became King George VI. His reign was cut short by his relationship with the twice-married American socialite Wallis Simpson, who he met in 1930. She was still married when the couple began their romance, just before Edward became king. When he made it plain that he planned to marry Wallis after her divorce, he faced opposition from the Prime Minister of the UK and those of the British dominions. The Church of England opposed the remarriage of divorced people if their ex-spouse was still alive and the monarch was head of the Church – how could Edward fulfil this role and marry a divorcee with two living ex-husbands? It was also felt that the British people would not accept the marriage. Stanley Baldwin, the British Prime Minister, outlined Edward’s choices: he could give up the idea of marrying Wallis, he could go ahead with the marriage against the wishes of all of the prime ministers, or he could abdicate and then do as he wished. Edward chose to abdicate and married Wallis on 3rd June 1937. During the Second World War, it was claimed that Edward and Wallis held Nazi sympathies.


Which scandalous monarchs would you add to this list?

I would like to say a very big THANK YOU to Claire Ridgway for stopping by today and shedding some light on several scandalous monarchs! If you would like to purchase Claire’s new book “Illustrated King’s and Queens of England” or any of her other brilliant books please follow the link to her Amazon Page.

And don’t forget, for your chance to win a copy of Claire’s new book all you need to do is leave a comment below by the 2nd of December 2016!


Author Bio:

Claire Ridgway is the author of best-selling books including:


Claire was also involved in the English translation and editing of Edmond Bapst’s 19th century French biography of George Boleyn and Henry Howard, now available as TWO GENTLEMAN POETS AT THE COURT OF HENRY VIII.

Claire worked in education and freelance writing before creating The Anne Boleyn Files history website and becoming a full-time history researcher, blogger and author. The Anne Boleyn Files is known for its historical accuracy and Claire’s mission to get to the truth behind Anne Boleyn’s story. Her writing is easy-to-read and conversational, and readers often comment on how reading Claire’s books is like having a coffee with her and chatting about history.

Claire loves connecting with Tudor history fans and helping authors and aspiring authors.


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Amy Licence Book Tour Day 4

I am very excited to host day 4 of Amy Licence’s book tour for her fantastic new book “Catherine of Aragon An Intimate Portrait of Henry VIII’s True Wife“. Amy has kindly provided a fascinating extract from her new book which explores Henry VIII’s secret relationship with Mary Boleyn, sister of his future second wife Anne Boleyn….


The woman in question was a daughter of the diplomat Thomas Boleyn, who along with Wolsey, had helped mastermind the arrangements for the Field of Cloth of Gold. His newly-married daughter Mary had been present in France and if the liaison had not begun by then, it certainly had by the spring of 1522. She made a dazzling appearance at Wolsey’s home of York Place, on the night of Shrove Tuesday, March 4, in an entertainment for the Imperial Ambassadors. A pageant of a castle had been prepared, a Chateau Vert, painted green and decorated with leaves and banners hanging from three towers, topped with three more thinly-veiled declaration of love. The first banner bore the image of three hearts, torn in half; the second showed a lady’s hand gripping a man’s heart and the third showed another female hand “turning” a man’s heart. Taking her place to watch the performance begin, what must Catherine have made of these coded messages? Eight ladies waited inside the castle, dressed in Milan bonnets and gowns of white satin, each with their role, all abstract virtues, embroidered in gold. The part of Beauty was taken Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk and Honour was played by Gertrude Blount, the Countess of Devonshire. The daughter of Lord Morley, Jane Parker, was Constance and Mistress Browne, Mistress Dannett and the daughters of Sir Thomas Boleyn also took roles. The elder Boleyn girl, Mary, who had served Mary Tudor in France, either chose or was assigned the part of Kindness, while her sister Anne, recently returned from the court of Queen Claude, played the role of Perseverance.

From under the castle, more figures appeared, but these were a grotesque parody of the courtly women trapped within. Played by choristers of the Chapel Royal, attired “like to women of Inde,” or India, they represented the negative qualities of lovers: Danger, Disdain, Jealousy, Unkindness, Scorn, Strangeness and Malbouche, or bad (harsh) tongue. Then, eight Lords entered the hall, dressed in blue capes and golden caps, yet not so dazzling as their leader, who took the role of Ardent Desire in a costume of crimson satin adorned with burning flames of gold. For once, Henry was not so unsubtle as to take this role in front of his wife. It was probably played by William Cornish, who was nearing the end of a long career as actor, musician and master of the Children of the Chapel Royal. Accompanying him were Love, Nobleness, Youth, Devotion, Loyalty, Pleasure, Gentleness and Liberty. A mock battle followed, an allegory for the overcoming of a lover’s scruples, in which the ladies wished to yield to Ardent Desire but were dissuaded by scorn and disdain. In their defence, the women threw rose water and comfits, whilst the men replied with dates and oranges and the suggestive “other fruits made for pleasure.” With the women surrendering and being led from the castle by their suitors, Henry was hoping that life would echo art. The signs suggest that it was around this time that his affair with Mary Boleyn began.

And yet there is a chance that Catherine knew nothing about it at all. With the assistance of his gentlemen of his chamber and the existence of separate households for the King and Queen, Henry was able to be so discreet that the entire affair was almost lost to history. Our knowledge for this liaison rests on the shoulders of a nineteenth century historian, John Lingard, as Henry ensured that very little evidence survived to establish the extent of their relationship. In 1817, Lingard cited a letter written by Cardinal Pole in 1535 in which Henry was forced to admit to the affair in order to clarify the terms on which he would marry Mary’s sister Anne Boleyn. When accused of having previously slept with Mary and her mother, he famously replied “never with the mother.” However, Lingard’s evidence was swiftly rejected by his contemporaries. One reviewer of his work suggested the theory was borne out of “a spirit of determined hostility” towards Anne Boleyn, “in order to fix a character of greater odium on her marriage with the king” and to present Henry’s rejection of Catherine of Aragon in a less favourable light. But this was never the historian’s intention. In response to this criticism, Lingard defended his position by quoting Pole’s response to Henry regarding Anne: “For who is she? The sister of a woman, who you had long kept as a mistress… whose sister you have carnally known yourself… the sister of one who has been your concubine.” As Lingard stated in his defence, Pole’s “language is that of a man who asserts nothing of which he is not assured, and who neither fears nor expects to meet with contradiction”. This leaves little doubt that Mary and Henry were lovers and that their relationship was of some duration. Whether or not Catherine knew for certain, or even suspected, cannot be certain. If she was aware, she drew a regal veil over it.

Thank you so much Amy for stopping by and sharing such an interesting extract from your latest book. If you would like to purchase a copy of Amy’s new book “Catherine of Aragon An Intimate Portrait of Henry VIII’s True Wife” or any of her other books please follow the link to her Amazon page.

About the Author:

Amy Licence is a journalist, author, historian and teacher, currently living in Canterbury, Kent, UK. Her particular interest lies in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, in gender relations, queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth.


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What a Tudor Lady Wore

What a Tudor Lady Wore

Clothing was very important in the Tudor age, you dressed according to your status and there were laws which dictated what people could and could not wear. The higher in status you were the more luxurious your clothing could be. For example only the Royal family could wear crimson, this defined them as royalty while lower class people simply could not afford rich fabrics for clothing, not to mention it would not be practical to wear such delicate garments while doing daily labour.

During the reign of Henry VIII Tudor women of higher status wore beautifully decorated dresses which consisted of multiple layers. Each layer held its own importance and in the following piece I will describe each layer that a Tudor lady would have worn, what order they were added and their use.

Smock/Chemise/Shift: All people during the Tudor age wore a smock, no matter their status, from the poor to the very rich. The difference between the smocks of course was the type of material used and how it was embroidered. For the lower class common courser linen was used while the Royal woman would have chosen finer, softer linen.  The edging of the smock would have also been embroidered with black thread, or even gold or silver depending on your status. The smock was designed for protecting your skin from the outer layers of clothing, and also used to absorb perspiration and dirt from the skin. They were far easier to wash than the delicate, expensive fabric of the outer garments and a lady aimed to have at least one smock for each day of the week. Often the lavish embroidering of the smock could be seen peeking out along the square neckline of the outer gown.


 Stays/Bodice: The Stays was a means to provide definition to the upper body by flattening the chest and pushing the breasts upwards. Stays were often used to attach a petticoat skirt to.

Farthingale: The Farthingale came into England in 1501 from Katherine of Aragon, she and her ladies initially wore one but then noticed that no one else in England was wearing one so she dropped it from her clothing. Tudor gowns were fairly straight and fell from the hips to the ground. Later as Queen Katherine of Aragon decided to wear a farthingale again and it came into fashion, after all who wouldn’t want to dress like a Queen? Its purpose is to provide definition to the skirt/gown and it became larger over time.


Petticoat: The petticoat was worm by both men and women and most commonly made of red material. It was believed during the Tudor period that red had health benefits and thus wearing the material close to the body was supposed to help maintain good health. The petticoat varied in style and could have been a simple red skirt attached to the Stays or it could have been a full underdress or even a skirt with thin straps to hold it over the shoulders.


 Kirtle: The Kirtle used to be the outer gown of a women’s clothing but over time people with money and status added a more lavish gown worn on top to show off the richness of the materials they could afford. Women of lower classes could not afford these rich and lavish materials and thus continued to wear the Kirtle as their outer gown. The purpose of a Kirtle was to provide the shape of the dress, pushing up the breasts and providing the correct shape to the torso. It was stiffened, possibly by bone, to provide the correct shape and outline. Some kirtles tied up at the front so women could do it themselves, but richer women had ladies in waiting or servants to do this for them and thus it could be done up at the back. A Kirtle, as with the petticoat, was often not visible under the gown, although on some occasions the square neckline of the kirtle could be seen.

Forepart: The forepart looks like an apron that is worn over the kirtle. It is tied around the back and the material is spread over the front of the kirtle. It is made of extremely beautiful material, the richer you are the finer, elaborate and more beautiful the fabric would have been. It was important that the forepart matched the false sleeves and thus would have been made of the same material as the false sleeves.


Gown: During the reign of Henry VIII there were two prominent gowns worn by higher ranking Tudor women. These were the traditional English Gown and the French Gown. The English Gown was worn close to the upper body, usually tied up at the front with either puffed sleeves or very tight fitting sleeves with the gown hanging loosely around the legs. The French Gown, most commonly related to Anne Boleyn (although not introduced by her to the English court) was most often laced at the back, had a square cut neckline and was worn with false sleeves. Often in addition to this a farthingale was worn underneath to puff out the bottom of the gown. Clothing was designed to represent a person’s status in life and thus a Tudor Ladies gown was made of rich fabrics, often damasks, velvet and other fine materials. It was also regularly decorated with jewels and sewn with fine thread. While the smock was washed the gown was not. Instead it was hung up and gently beaten to remove excess dirt.


False Sleeves: The False sleeves were designed to cover a woman’s arms down to the wrist and went under the sleeves of the gown. They were generally made from the same lavish material as the forepart and were often very beautifully decorated and sometimes even had had jewels had on them.

Partlet: The Partlet is an additional piece of fabric, often made in the same material as the gown, which can be tied around the shoulders and under the arms, to provide extra warmth around the shoulders/chest or to protect skin from the sun.

Coif: The Coif was a hat or cap that was worn under the hood to hold back a woman’s hair from the face and to protect the hood from the hair’s natural oils. They were usually made of linen, or perhaps silk for a richer woman and were either white or light in colour. They could be simple in design and appearance or beautifully embroidered with fine thread. A woman’s hair was commonly braided and tied up under the coif.

Hoods: In the bible it stated that women were not supposed to show their hair. Girls could wear their hair down and the Queen of England could wear her hair down on her coronation day – but other than this a married lady must wear her hair up and covered. There were two types of hoods, the English hood otherwise known as the Gable and the French Hood. The Gabel covered all of a woman’s hair and was often made in a triangle shape with the point at the top. The French hood was far more scandalous as it was worn slightly back from the hairline and showed some of a woman’s hair! It was also designed in a more circle or oval shape.


Jewels: Tudor women wore a range of jewellery including necklaces, pendants, jewels upon the edge of the gowns, broaches, bracelets, rings and a Girdle belt made of material or jewels with a fine pendant, prayer book or pomander at the end. A married woman would wear a wedding ring upon the middle finger of the left hand.

Stockings: Stockings were initially of wool but then moved onto satin and finer fabrics, which of course only the richer person could afford. They were usually held up by garters made of ribbon.

Slippers/Shoes: A person’s shoes would depend on their lifestyle. A worker would normally wear flat shoes that went up to the ankle and were made of leather. A person of higher status such as those at court would wear a low cut shoe, usually square in shape and done up with a buckle. They could be elaborately decorated.



Bull, Z 2013, What Did A Noble Tudor Lady Wear?, viewed 6th January 2014, <;.

Housego, M & Black Night Historical 2009, Tudor Costume, online video, viewed 6th January 2014, <;.

Leed, D 2008, Elizabeth Costume Page, viewed 6th January 2014, <;.

Le Temps Viendra 2013, Under a Lady’s Skirts – Taster Version, online video, viewed 6th January 2014, <;.

Ridgway, C 2010, Tudor Clothes, viewed 6th January 2014, <;.

Ridgway, C 2013, Anne Boleyn’s Style Webinar Transcript, viewed 6th January 2014, <;.

The Tudor Costume Page 2014, The Tudor Costume Page, viewed 6th January 2014, <;.


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Kyra Kramer Book Tour Day 3

I am very excited today to host Day 3 of Kyra Kramer’s book tour for her wonderful new book “Edward VI in a Nutshell”. Kyra Cornelius Kramer is an author and researcher with undergraduate degrees in both biology and anthropology from the University of Kentucky, as well as a masters degree in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University. Her work is published in several peer-reviewed journals, including The Historical Journal, Studies in Gothic Fiction, and Journal of Popular Romance Studies and she regularly writes for The Tudor Society. Her books include Blood Will Tell: A medical explanation for the tyranny of Henry VIII, The Jezebel Effect: Why the slut shaming of famous queens still matters, Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell and Edward VI in a Nutshell.

For your chance to win a copy of Kyra’s new book all you need to do is leave a comment below by the 23rd of November 2016. A winner will be selected at random, it’s as simple as that!


Kyra has kindly stopped by today to discuss Edward VI’s death and his decision to name Lady Jane Grey as his heir….

There is a common historical misconception that Edward VI only named Lady Jane Grey his heir because John Dudley, the 1st Duke of Northumberland, manipulated the boy king into doing so. People still think this was part of Northumberland’s nefarious plot to rule the country via his son, Jane’s husband Guilford Dudley. Notwithstanding what everyone “knows”, there is no evidence that Northumberland had anything to do with convincing Edward to choose Jane to succeed him on the throne. Jane and Guilford were probably not even engaged until after Edward chose Jane as his heir. Edward appears to have wanted Jane to marry Guilford because he thought Northumberland was the best person to assist Jane in keeping England on the path to pure Protestantism, and therefore Edward wanted Northumberland to be the future queen’s father-in-law.

In my latest book, Edward VI in a Nutshell, I explain how it was the king — and only the king — who came up with the idea of bequeathing his crown to his cousin, Lady Jane Grey:

“Edward, always perspicacious, knew he was dying by late spring of 1553. He needed to choose an heir. A devout and committed Protestant, he did not want his half-sister Mary to reign after him; there was too much risk that she would attempt to turn England toward ‘popery’ again. He gave serious consideration to naming his half-sister Elizabeth, whom he called his “sweet sister Temperance”, his heir. Elizabeth was Protestant and would have kept England safe from papist heresy, but Edward decided in the end that he really couldn’t skip over one sister for theoretical illegitimacy and not the other… If neither of his sisters could be allowed the crown, who then should have it? From the bloodlines, it should fall to a cousin. His father’s older sister, Margaret Tudor, had married James IV of Scotland and their heir and current Queen of Scots, Mary, was both Catholic and engaged to the heir of the French throne. England ruled by Catholic monarchs and annexed to France in all but name? Never! That left the children of his father’s younger sister, Mary Tudor, as potential heirs … For whatever reason, Edward skipped over the Duchess of Suffolk, who was a generation closer to Henry VII, and chose Frances’s eldest daughter, Lady Jane Grey, as the legal heir to the crown.

The king wrote, in his own hand, the first draft of what he called “My Deuise for the Succession”, which named Jane Grey as next in line for the throne. The exact date he started this remarkable document is unknown, but it was possible he was working on it as early as February of 1553 and it had certainly been written by April …


Once Jane had married Guilford Dudley toward the end of May in 1553, “Edward’s next step was to make his deuise legally watertight, which he endeavored to do throughout the last few weeks of his life. The young king was badly ailing and in a lot of pain, but his first and foremost concern was making sure Mary did not succeed the throne after him. He summoned more than a dozen of the country’s leading lawyers to draft the best version of his deuise possible.

What it boiled down to was whether or not Edward could make a will that supplanted that of his late father’s. To be succinct, yes he could. Edward VI was old enough to name his successor. He was the king and no longer a child. During Edward’s lifetime the Church considered childhood to end at age six and you could assume adult responsibilities as young as 12 years old. While the ‘official’ age of majority to write a will in the sixteenth century was 21, the concept of legal adulthood was a bit different for kings. Henry VIII was only 17 when he became king and there was no attempt to assign him a regent; he was old enough to make adult decisions. Likewise, it was Edward’s decision as to who should rule after him. It did not matter that Mary had been reinstated in Henry VIII’s will because Henry VIII’s will did not matter so much as a gnat’s tiny poo after Edward was a de facto adult with the ability to rationally choose an heir.

One of the lawyers, Edward Montagu, would later try to keep his head on his shoulders by telling the newly crowned Queen Mary I that the lawyers didn’t want to write the document making Jane the queen, what with them being such big fans of Mary and all, but Edward made them do it. According to Montagu, the king used “sharp words an angry countenance” on the balking lawyers and “seeing the king so earnest and sharp” that they had no choice but to write up the document and sign it (Ives, 2012:129). Apparently the king’s sharpness was so wickedly sharp that Montagu and all but one of the senior lawyers returned ten days later to sign it again for the benefit of king and privy council.

Edward was deeply committed to Jane’s ascendancy, and was determined to make everyone acquiesce to it. This wasn’t always easy. He had to go above and beyond to get Archbishop Cranmer on board the Queen Jane train. Cranmer was a good friend of Somerset’s and blamed Northumberland for the duke’s death. He was incredibly reluctant to endorse Edward’s deuise and set Northumberland up as father-in-law to the queen. Cranmer was also genuinely troubled by conscience; he had promised to obey Henry VIII’s will and Mary was next in line by the terms of that document. Was it legal or ethical to set the old king’s will aside? First, the privy council talked to Cranmer and assured him that “the king was fully entitled to override his father’s settlement” (Ives, 2012:130). Not quite easy in his mind, the Archbishop of Canterbury wanted to talk to his godson about it personally. The king, who had less than three weeks to live, met with Cranmer and promised him face to face that “the judges and his learned council said, that the act of entailing the crown, made by his father, could not be prejudicial to him, but that he, being in possession of the crown, might make his will thereof” (Ives, 2012:131). Still uncertain, Cranmer begged the king to be allowed to talk to the judges and the attorney general, just to make sure. The king consented, and when Cranmer spoke with them they all confirmed “that he might lawfully subscribe to the king’s will by the laws of the realm” (Ives, 2012:131).

King Edward VI had chosen his successor fair and square and in a legally binding manner. The final draft of the document was signed by the king, signed and witnessed by 102 members of his government (including the members of the privy council), and the Great Seal was applied to it. It was as official as official could ever be. Jane was to be queen. Jane would be the lawful queen. Anyone who disputed that and tried to take the crown from her would be traitors and usurpers.”

Of course, once King Edward VI died on 6 July 1553 all of his careful legal work was undone when Mary and her supporters rose up in rebellion and dethroned Queen Jane Grey. Post-usurpation propaganda has done an excellent job of whitewashing these events, leaving most people with the idea that Queen Jane the I was an ‘innocent traitor’ who never really wanted the throne or had the legal right to sit there, but the hard reality of it is that Jane was the queen and Mary’s coup was the overthrow and murder of a legitimate monarch.

Thank you so much Kyra for such a fascinating article! Don’t forget for your chance to win a copy of Kyra’s book simply leave a comment below by the 23rd of November 2016!

“Born twenty-seven years into his father’s reign, Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI, was the answer to a whole country’s prayers. Precocious and well-loved, his life should have been idyllic and his own reign long and powerful. Unfortunately for him and for England, that was not to be the case. Crowned King of England at nine years old, Edward was thrust into a world of power players, some who were content to remain behind the throne, and some who would do anything to control it completely. Devoutly Protestant and in possession of an uncanny understanding of his realm, Edward’s actions had lasting effects on the religious nature of the kingdom and would surely have triggered even more drastic changes if he hadn’t tragically and unexpectedly died at the age of fifteen.Physicians of the day wrote reams of descriptions of the disease that killed him, but in Edward VI in a Nutshell, medical anthropologist Kyra Kramer (author of Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell) proposes a new theory of what, exactly, caused his death.Straightforward and informative, Edward VI in a Nutshell will give readers a better understanding than they’ve ever had of the life, reign, and death, of England’s last child monarch.”


If you don’t want to wait until next week and want to buy a copy of Kyra’s book you can do so by following this link to Amazon: Edward VI in a Nutshell.

Please do check out the other stops in Kyra’s book tour (and more chances to win a copy of her book!)


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My Trip to England Part 2

My Trip to England Part 2

To read about the first part of my trip to England please click here England Part 1.

On the first full day of my short time in England I went with two dear friends went to Hever Castle and St Peter’s Church, which is located just a few minutes’ walk from Hever. I have been to Hever Castle the last time I went to England but due to lack of time completely missed St Peter’s Church. This time we stopped off first at St Peter’s Church first and it was within these ancient walls that I had one of the most eerie and yet happiest experiences of my life.

Buried within St Peter’s is Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne Boleyn. His tomb is hard to miss and is located towards the front of the church. It is in a way almost unassuming; despite the large stone tomb there is no railing around it, no guards or line to stand behind. The tomb is simply… there. It was sad to reach out and touch Thomas Boleyn’s tomb, knowing all that he had done and lost throughout his life.

However what truly made St Peter’s Church one of the most amazing experiences for me was the little Tudor girl that I saw there. Well, I didn’t physically see a girl but she was there, as though a ghost from the past. I saw her sitting with others listening to a Catholic Church service. However despite trying as hard as she could I knew that she was distracted by the stunning images that decorated the walls – which sadly no longer exist. I knew immediately without a shadow of a doubt this little girl was Mary Boleyn. Living at Hever Castle, only a breath away, Mary and the Boleyn family would have attended St Peter’s Church.

Despite there only being the three of us within the Church I could feel little Mary, about eight years of age, being distracted by the images decorating the walls rather than listening to the service. Then suddenly the service had ended and I watched with a smile upon my face as Mary almost skipped down the isle and out of the church door.

It was such a surreal experience. It was as though I was watching a projected movie play out before me, except as well as seeing everything I could feel what little Mary Boleyn was feeling.

Having written my first book on Mary Boleyn I am fascinated by this woman who defied her sister the Queen and her father and followed her heart, marrying for love. I find Mary such a strong woman and what little is known about her life is very compelling to me. It was as though entering St Peter’s Church I was gifted with a small glimpse of Mary’s childhood. It was such a strong feeling that I will carry it with me as though it was as real as the sun that shines.


After such an experience my two friends and I went to Hever Castle. As always Hever was just spectacular. Although much of the internal structure of Hever has changed there is still a very haunting feeling about the place. I felt very wistful walking through the room that was supposed to once belong to Anne Boleyn as well as the connecting rooms. I also felt this feeling while walking through the long gallery, built by Thomas Boleyn.

Hever is such an incredible place to visit and I strongly recommend that if you have any interest in Tudor history then do take a day, or at least a good afternoon to walk through the beautiful rooms at Hever Castle.


Bidding my friends goodbye I headed up north to Lincolnshire to stop by two places which have a particularly personal connection for me. My first stop was Grimsthorpe Castle, which was extensively rebuilt by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. For those that know me my second book is about Brandon and I am utterly captivated by this compelling man who not just survived the reign of Henry VIII but flourished.

Grimsthorpe Castle, although not a castle in the strictest sense of the word, once belonged to the Willoughby de Eresby family, granted to them by King Henry VIII. Charles Brandon married Catherine Willoughby and inherited the house via his wife. In 1541 Henry VIII decided to visit Grimsthrope and Brandon extensively expanded and rebuilt the castle.

Unfortunately the entire front façade of the Castle was demolished and rebuilt in the early 18th century. Also much of the internal structure of the castle has been changed over the years and there seems to be little resemblance as to what it would have looked like during Brandon’s life. However the South, East and West external sides of the castle are still in the traditional Tudor design as Brandon would have known.

I found Grimsthorpe quite spectacular. Even though it is not a castle it was quite magnificent and such a huge and very imposing building. It was quite sad that nothing much of the internal structure remains the same as Charles Brandon would have known it and I did not feel his presence at all within the Castle. However I did spot one of Brandon’s magnificent portraits painted within the last few years of his life. This was probably the highlight for me as it was quite spectacular to be able to see this large portrait up close. The detail within the painting was magnificent and to see it only a few inches away was so much more impressive than seeing the same portrait online! The rest of the small tour group I was with were halfway down the long hallway before I could tear myself away from staring at Brandon’s portrait and follow after them!


After Grimsthorpe I went to Tattershall Castle, which was granted to Charles Brandon in 1537 by Henry VIII. Of all the places that I visited during my time in England it was Tattershall Castle that I was most desperate to see and I can say that it did not disappoint.

All that remains of Tattershall Castle now is the huge, imposing red brick tower which Brandon would have known well. Brandon was granted Tattershall by Henry VIII so that the Duke could live in Lincolnshire and keep an eye on the people of the north to ensure that no more rebellions took place. Previously the Pilgrimage of Grace had started in the North and had swept down through England, collecting supporters as the pilgrimage went and at one stage was so imposing that if they wished they could have taken over London! However the Pilgrimage was halted and ended up disbanding but not without great punishment to its leaders. By being relocated in Lincolnshire Brandon was charged with keeping the peace and ensuring that no further rebellions started.

Tattershall Castle has its origins in the 13th century and then was extended and rebuilt in the early 16th century. The great red brick tower contains a basement, the ground floor, the first floor which was the hall, the second floor which was the audience chamber and the third floor which would have been Brandon’s personal sleeping chamber. Then there was access to the roof. Each floor was extremely bare, just a large rectangular room with several very small chambers located at each corner of the tower. There was one large spiral staircase made of stone which wound around and around from the ground floor right up to the roof.

It’s hard to accurately put into words just how incredible Tattershall Castle really was. It was everything I imagined it to be and more. With each floor so bare, lacking almost everything but a large fireplace and perhaps one simple table or chest, or sometimes nothing at all – allowed the imagination to run wild. Standing in the third floor main chamber, with not a single piece of furniture, I could imagine Brandon’s huge bed (when he died it was reported that he had owned a large number of tapestries and bedding which was removed from Tattershall).


Standing in what would have been Brandon’s bed chamber all alone I suddenly had this vision of an older man getting out of bed, both feet touching the cold floor and the man groaning. He drew a deep breath, grumbling something to the woman sleeping in the bed and then pushed himself up to stand. Then as quick as it appeared the image vanished. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it had been Charles Brandon. I didn’t see his face, only his back and the white night shirt that he was wearing but I just knew.

With this image in my head I trod up the last flight of stairs to the roof of Tattershall. It was absolutely spectacular to stand on the roof and gaze out over the countryside of Lincolnshire on such a glorious sunny day. The information board said that on a clear day you could see almost twenty miles and I have to completely agree. You could even see Lincoln Cathedral far off in the distance. It was completely understandable why Henry VIII gave Tattershall to Brandon, he and his men would have been able to see any rebellion coming for miles and miles!

I took hundreds of photos of Tattershall, both inside and out and it was more spectacular than I could have ever imagined. There was something so very haunting – in such a wonderful way – about Tattershall Castle. Although Brandon was only connected with Tattershall for eight years I really could feel the man’s connection with the place. It would have been difficult for Brandon, coming from a lavish place such as Henry VIII’s court or Westhorpe Hall to live in an old style, simple and very drafty castle such as Tattershall. But Brandon always did his duty for his King and Tattershall would have become his home – when he was there and not at court with Henry!

After Tattershall I went to Peterborough Cathedral where Katherine of Aragon was buried. My breath was taken away by the sheer magnificence of Peterborough Cathedral, it was just spectacular. I purchased a pass so that I could take photos within the Cathedral and I think I spent most of the time pointing my camera upwards! The walls and ceiling were just amazing! The intricate detail of the stained glass windows, the paintings and the ceilings were just incredible. Really there are just not the words to describe how stunning Peterborough Cathedral is, to fully appreciate it you absolutely must visit!

I paused for a few moments to pay my respects at Katherine of Aragon’s grave. Little remains of what used to be Katherine’s grave but now it is marked with ‘Katherine Queen of England’, which is a fitting for a woman who suffered so greatly during the last years of her life.


Returning to London my last stop was Westminster Abbey and Westminster Hall. I have visited Westminster Abbey before but I had to visit again. Westminster Abbey, at least as it is today, has a rich and long history dating back to the 13th century. However it is believed that there has been a church on the site since the time of William the Conqueror.

It was incredible to walk around such an ancient building and to gaze upon graves that are hundreds upon hundreds of years old. Some names I was familiar with others I was not. I paused within The Lady Chapel to take in the beauty of the golden roof that Henry VII ordered to be build and which he and his wife were buried within. I also paid my respects to Henry Carey, Mary Boleyn’s son and to Francis Brandon, Charles Brandon’s daughter.

I took my time walking around the cloisters, imagining the monks going about their daily duties as the glorious sunshine shone down from above. And I may or may not have spent a little more than I should have at the gift shop!

Westminster Hall was equally as impressive, however it had an ever deeper meaning for me as it was within Westminster Hall that Anne Boleyn’s coronation feast was held. Charles Brandon was appointed as Lord High Steward and Constable for the Coronation and banquet. During the banquet at Westminster Hall Brandon wore a doublet covered in pearls and rode a charger covered in crimson velvet, up and down the great hall. I stood within the great hall imagining Brandon, glittering in his fine clothing, riding up and down pretending to honour Anne (when he really despised her!) It was amazing to have another connection with Brandon, to once more only be separated by time.


Despite only spending two weeks in England and having a whirlwind holiday/research tip, I have to say that I had the most amazing time. I had so many incredible, mind blowing experiences! To be able to visit and walk through the rooms and halls that Tudor people would have walked through was just incredible. And then to have the great honour of touching Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk’s stall plate and to kneel at his grave….. they are experiences and moments that I will never forget.

England was just amazing. I took over a thousand photos and many, many videos and I admit that I spent far too much and was over my baggage limit on the way home! (I may or may not have bought 12 Tudor books that I had to smuggle home!) However it was the opportunity to be able to touch Tudor buildings, to be in the same place as people of the past, only separated by time and the emotions that I felt that I will carry within my heart forever.


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Clothing was very important in the Tudor age, you dressed according to your status and there were laws which dictated what people could and could not wear. The higher in status you were the more luxurious your clothing could be. For example only the Royal family could wear crimson, this defined them as royalty while lower class people simply could not afford rich fabrics for clothing, not to mention it would not be practical to wear such delicate garments while doing daily labour. Clothing defined a person and styles varied throughout the Tudor dynasty depending on who was King or Queen and what they chose to wear – for everyone at court wanted to be just like their royal monarch! People of the lower classes were still confined by rules regarding what they wore but their clothing was far more practical and suited to their daily tasks and made of cheaper and easier to access fabrics. No matter the person, rich or poor they had to wear clothing and what they wore was strictly governed.

Henry 1520

Henry VIII

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Making a Female Tudor Smock

Making a Female Tudor Smock

Part of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to continue to work on adding the layers to my Tudor costume.

All people during the Tudor age wore a smock, no matter their status, from the poor to the very rich. The difference between the type of smocks was the material used and how it was embroidered. For the lower class common courser linen was used, while the Royal woman would have chosen finer, softer linen. The edging of the smock would have also been embroidered with black thread, or even gold or silver depending on your status.

The smock was designed for protecting your skin from the outer layers of clothing. They were also used to absorb perspiration and dirt from the skin. They were far easier to wash than the delicate, expensive fabric of the outer garments and a lady aimed to have at least one smock for each day of the week. Often the lavish embroidering of the smock could be seen peeking out along the square neckline of the outer gown.

I was determined to make myself a proper Tudor smock however I cannot sew to save my life! Luckily my most beloved best friend Amanda is a dress maker and quilter and is utterly amazing with her sewing machine. With much love she agreed to make a Tudor smock for me. I purchased a pattern from Simplicity Patterns and with the pattern in hand she set to work.

The process took several hours and some intricate tinkering around with some parts of the smock but in the end it was finished and I think it looks amazing!

I wanted to share the process of making my Tudor smock with you all and therefore I interviewed my best friend and asked her a few questions about the process of making the Smock.

What were your thoughts going into making this Tudor smock?
I was excited, having never made anything for Tudor costumes, as the pattern seemed very easy to follow and I was looking forward to the finished product once the lace was attached.

What material did you prefer to use?
The material I preferred to use would be the broad cloth we bought as it has a lovely weight to it, cuts beautifully and is so easy to work with.

How difficult was the pattern to follow?
In the beginning the pattern was very easy to follow but once we reached the sleeve attachment and top lining around the chest area the instructions seemed to be transformed into gibberish. Having noticed mistakes within requirements on the back of the pattern I now wonder if mistakes were made within the construction methods. In the end I decided that I would just alter the pattern to make it work.

What was the hardest part of making the smock?
Hardest part was attaching the sleeves as I’ve never worked with sleeves that also have a gusset panel.

Can you elaborate a little more on how you dealt with the sleeve gusset problem?
Once the gusset panel was attached to the sleeve it became apparent that it was now too big to fit within the sleeve hole on the smock. I began undoing seams down the side of the smock to allow more room but that did not work either, so I reduced the size of the gusset panel to allow for it to fit without removing too much so that the under arm would be too tight.

What sort of stitching would you recommend?
I would recommend using a straight stitch as there is no stretch to the fabric and to finish the seams off with an overlocker. As I don’t own one I used a similar stitch to an overlocker to avoid fraying edges in the future. For basic machines a simple straight stich and then a zigzag would work also.

What is your favourite part of the smock?
I would have to say the lace trim around the top opening of the smock. It really transformed it from plain to somewhat elegant. It really finished the smock off nicely. I am very proud of the way it turned out.

What piece of Tudor undergarment will you make next? (If I can convince you to do so!)
I am very keen to draft my own pattern for a red petticoat after seeing different images I have a creative spark ready to attack this next project. There were not that many petticoat patterns available, after much research, which suited the style wanted by the costume wearer so it became necessary to develop my own. I am also looking at making a coif as well. All in all enjoying my handiwork in the style of Tudor garments.

I’d just like to say a very big THANK YOU to my amazing best friend Amanda for all her hard work and effort that she put into making a Tudor smock for me. Next up is the petticoat and a coif, both of which Amanda will be designing patters for by hand – her talents never cease to amaze me! I will keep you all updated on the process of these two Tudor undergarments as they are being made.


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