In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII: The visitor's companion to the palaces, castles & houses associated with Henry VIII's iconic queens by S Morris and N Grueninger
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|In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII: The visitor's companion to the palaces, castles & houses associated with Henry VIII's iconic queens by S Morris and N Grueninger|
|Reviewer: John Van der Kiste|
|Summary: This book is history, gazetteer or guide book, and collection of biographies all at once. As a Tudor tour of places lived in or visited by the Queens, in words and pictures, one could hardly ask for more.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: July 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
It was inevitable that each of the six wives of Henry VIII would have left their mark in some way on the places they lived and visited. This book straddles several categories; it is part history, part gazetteer or guide book, and also a collection of potted biographies.
Two of the Tudor Queens Consort were originally European princesses. The itinerary that follows them takes us to the continent, to the Alhambra in Spain, childhood home of Katherine of Aragon, the first (and the one who was Queen for the longest, over twenty years), and to Düsseldorf in Germany, where Anne of Cleves, the fourth (and the one whose marriage was almost over before it had begun) was born.
Inevitably, most of the relevant places are in England, the castles, palaces and manors where they were brought up, and experienced the best of times, the worst of times, as Queen to England's most unpredictable, even most tyrannical King. The opening chapter introduces us to the principal royal residences of the time, all within or, as in the case of Windsor Castle, very close to the present-day area of Greater London. Eltham, Whitehall and Greenwich Palaces did not long survive the Tudor era, but Windsor remains the seat of the monarchy, while Hampton Court (about a mile down the road from where I was staying with family while I read this book) has prospered to become one of the prize heritage attractions of its time – or rather of ours.
Each of the other six chapters is devoted to one of the Queens themselves. As well as a short itinerary of the locations most associated with them, there is a short biographical introduction and brief assessment of each. The authors do not hold back from a little personal opinion. Kathrine of Aragon was a woman of 'steadfast determination' in her refusal to waver from a firm belief that she was the King's one and only true wife; Anne Boleyn was 'an intelligent, powerful and influential' personality who became the tragic victim of court faction; 'the paler and apparently insipid' Jane Seymour was 'ruthless, cold-hearted and far from endearing'; Anne of Cleves 'understated yet dignified, probably the most easily dismissed'; the much-to-be-pitied Catherine Howard, who 'faced her brutal end with dignity and courage'; and Katherine Parr 'a dutiful and loyal wife, inherently kind and generous'. All but the third, therefore, have some claim on their admiration and respect.
In the process they have also researched a formidable list of relevant locations. From her native Spain, they follow Katherine to Ludlow, where she briefly lived as husband of Arthur, Prince of Wales, and to Kimbolton, where she was confined in her last sad years. The briefly triumphant and then suddenly tragic saga of Anne Boleyn is played out from her childhood home of Hever Castle to places that she and Henry visited, including Berkeley Castle, Acton Court and Winchester, as well as to the scaffold on Tower Hill; Jane Seymour, from her family origins at Wolf Hall, to York Place, where she was lodged before she became Queen; Anne of Cleves' odyssey from Germany to her last homes at Dartford and Chelsea; Catherine Howard, at St Mary's Abbey in York where she and King Henry rested during their progress around the country of 1541, so soon before her sudden fall; and Kathrine Parr, from her childhood home at Rye House to her last dwelling at Sudeley Castle, where as the wife of Thomas Seymour she gave birth to a daughter but died of fever soon afterwards.
Every entry is accompanied by a short history, directions, and visitor information as well as a full description of what is left to see, whether the place is still standing or whether only a few desolate ruins mark the site where it once stood. As a Tudor tour in words and pictures, one could hardly ask for more. Over three hundred pages of packed text are supplemented by two comprehensive sections of plates, one in colour, one in black and white.
The last few years have seen a steady outpouring of Tudor royal biography. Among those we particularly recommend are an excellent overview of all the Queens, The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women's Stories by Amy Licence; a detailed and sympathetic life of the first, Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII's True Wife by Amy Licence and of the last, Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr by Linda Porter; and a full account of the second's arrest, trial and execution, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir. We also enjoyed The King's Pearl: Henry VIII and His Daughter Mary by Melita Thomas.
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