Posted in 16th Century

Symbols and Emblems of the French Monarchy in 16th Century France

I first read of Diane de Poitiers in 2006 in a book by Diane Haeger titled Courtesan. I was intrigued by the descriptions of the personal badges she and the royals took, the reasoning behind them and the extent to which they were carved and displayed. Some survive to this day and in a way it is the mark of Henri’s everlasting love for Diane. Though Diane is an antagonist in C. W. Gortner’s novel, I still adore her because my first impression was set with Haeger’s novels. Both stories are unique and wonderfully rendered and I recommend them both for those interested in early Renaissance France. I’ll start with Francois I, who took the salamander as his emblem. Salamanders were thought to have mystical…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews

review: The Midwife of Venice

The Midwife of Venice By Roberta Rich Venice, 1575. Hannah Levi , a midwife from the Jewish community, awaits news of her husband, who was captured during a business trip and imprisoned on the island of Malta. Desperate to raise the funds for his release, she accepts a hefty offer from a Venetian nobleman in exchange for saving his laboring wife—though it is illegal for a Jew to attend a Christian in any medical service. This is the first step to a whirlwind of deception and treachery, as Hannah fights to survive and reunite herself with her husband. While this story offers tangible details on certain aspects of the characters’ lives, it seems to be severely abridged, as if half the story was edited out….

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Time Travel Tudor

review: Seven Will Out: A Renaissance Revel

Seven Will Out: A Renaissance Revel by JoAnn Spears In Spears’ previous novel, Six of One: A Tudor Riff, modern day historian Catherine “Dolly” Rolly traveled to an astral plane where she met the wives of Henry VIII and learned their stories from the source. This time Dolly returns and is met by the later generation Tudors, including Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Bess of Hardwick, and more. During her night of wine and conversation she learns quite a bit, as well as relaying some present day tidbits to the 16th century ladies. Focused on the authorship of Shakespeare’s works, this is an entertaining “what-if” for conspiracy theorists regarding the Bard’s plays, and contains subplots involving Arabella Stuart and, separately, the women involved with…

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Posted in 16th Century 17th Century Reviews Tudor

review: Watch the Lady

Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle Penelope Devereux, daughter of Lettice Knollys, the woman Queen Elizabeth I called the “She-Wolf” for marrying the royal favorite, is pitted against the Essex faction’s rival, Robert Cecil, in this panoramic Tudor narrative. Penelope, beautiful, level-headed and witty, makes a perfect waiting lady and voice for the out-of-favor Devereux family, though it is her brother who catches the Queen’s attention. Robert Cecil, son of the Queen’s most trusted advisor, Lord Burghley, has loathed Robert Devereux since childhood, when the latter joined in to bully the physically weak Cecil. Thus an enmity existed when they each became an important fixture at court. Penelope, ever her brother’s champion, lead the family through the tangle of intrigues, deftly extracting herself from scandal…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: The Lady in the Tower

The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy This is the book that started my obsession with Jean Plaidy–the first of her novels I read and my absolute favorite characterization of Anne Boleyn. Eight years have passed, and reading it again I stand by my initial delight in finding an admirable protagonist in Anne–after having been introduced to her by Philippa Gregory, with her not-so-flattering portrayal of Anne as a great intriguer with temperamental dominance. In The Lady in the Tower, Anne is imprisoned in the Tower of London, recounting her life in its entirety in an effort to distract herself from her present state. She details her early life at Hever, the years spent in the court of France, and her relations with James…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: The Tudor Secret

The Tudor Secret by C. W. Gortner England, Summer 1553: Brendan Prescott, a foundling serving in the household of the Dudley family, is immediately immersed in political intrigue when he joins the court as Lord Robert’s squire. With an unknown background and generic face, he makes the perfect spy and is only too happy to lend his services to the regal Princess Elizabeth. Along the way he discovers the pieces to his past and uncovers treasonous plots that endanger himself and those he loves. If you’re a fan of historical mysteries and the Tudors, this is the perfect read for you. King Edward is dying, Northumberland is scheming and both Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth are questioning the events taking place. Brendan is courting danger…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews

review: The Serpent Garden

The Serpent Garden by Judith Merkle Riley With the death of her husband, Susanna found herself alone and in debt. The only way to survive was to take up the trade her father taught her, which she gave up upon marriage — painting portraits. As a merchant, Susanna was banned from selling her work and so she passed the paintings off as her husband’s collection. Eventually her exquisite miniatures reach the notice of Henry VIII’s right-hand man, Archbishop Wolsey. Lady court painters are legal and she becomes a part of his immense entourage, personally directed by Wolsey’s secretary, Robert Ashton. When Princess Mary leaves England to marry the French king, Susanna is sent to make portraits and evaluate the art in the French palaces. She…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: King’s Fool

King’s Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes Another great novel from this author! I really enjoyed her book My Lady of Cleves, though found the one on Anne Boleyn, Brief Gaudy Hour, had a sketchy timeline and depicted Anne as I hate seeing her: shallow and evil. This is the story of the life of Will Somers, royal jester to Henry VIII. I would liken this book to The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George, though more abridged and it has a little more to do with Will’s life rather than Henry’s. They both show Henry in a positive light and make his decisions seem more rational than the topical history suggests. Will starts life as the son of a churchman and has learning, though…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: Brief Gaudy Hour

The enigmatic Anne Boleyn comes to life in this charming, brilliant portrayal by acclaimed British novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes. The infamous love of King Henry VIII and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn undertook a rocky journey from innocent courtier to powerful Queen of England. A meticulous researcher, Margaret Campbell Barnes immerses readers in this intrigue and in the lush, glittery world of the Tudor Court. The beauty and charms of Anne Boleyn bewitched the most powerful man in the world, King Henry VIII, but her resourcefulness and cleverness were not enough to stop the malice of her enemies. Her swift rise to power quickly became her own undoing. The author brings to light Boleyn’s humanity and courage, giving an intimate look at…

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Posted in 16th Century Non-Fiction Reviews Tudor

review: Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen and the Men Who Loved Her

Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen and the Men Who Loved Her by Robert Stephen Parry A unique mixture of fact and fiction, this volume contains 14 short chapters on Queen Elizabeth I’s relationships with the various men in her life—from her cold and distant father to her trusted councilors and, of course, the well-documented round of suitors. While some chapters give a brief history and descriptions of life at court, others are dedicated to a character, including a bio as well as a vignette. These fictionalized short stories display an insightful scene between the Queen and the man in question. Also included is a discussion on what the term “Virgin Queen” meant in Elizabethan times and the significance of the Queen’s astrological sign, Virgo—a link to…

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Posted in 16th Century Renaissance Reviews

review: In the Company of the Courtesan

In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant Inspired by Titian’s famous painting, The Venus of Urbino, this is the story of Roman courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini as told by her dwarf companion, Bucino Teodoldi. Together they flee the sack of Rome in 1527 and head to Fiametta’s mother’s house in Venice. Upon arrival they find the house empty and their funds exhausted, and so must hastily come up with a scheme to launch Fiametta’s “services” to the wealthy Venetians. A healer is employed to restore the courtesan’s beauty while Bucino makes important connections about the city. Once Fiametta is established, the story turns from her plight and centers on the healer, Elena Crusichi, also called La Draga. While there isn’t a particular historical event…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: The Lady Elizabeth

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir A very comprehensive novel on the Virgin Queen’s early life, The Lady Elizabeth begins when the precocious child is not yet three. During her years as the king’s bastard daughter she witnesses her father marry four times, welcoming a new “step-mother” each time—fully aware that Catherine Howard’s fate was the same as her own mother’s. This shapes her view of the marital state, as does the pieces of her mother’s life and death that she is able to glean from servants’ gossip and royal outbursts. The next stage finds her in favor as the king’s “good” sister. As she is of Edward’s faith, she enjoys much learning and freedom during this period, though it ends with her disgrace as…

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