Picture of the Week #362

The Nutcracker Christmas Shop, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo May 2015.

I was trying to think of something seasonally-appropriate to post today and then I remembered the Christmas store I saw in Stratford! (The photo above was taken out of the window of the Shakespeare Birthplace.)

Sunday Short Takes

Short round-up this week, but I wanted to get one more in before the Solstice, Festivus, and Christmas so I could wish everyone celebrating a “Happy Holidays”!

One story lit up my alerts more than anything else this week:

* The Lost Tiltyard TowerArchaeologists at Hampton Court Palace have uncovered the remains of one of the palace’s famous five lost Tiltyard Towers. The discovery of this green-glazed tile floor has solved a three-hundred-year-old mystery. Built at the height of King Henry VIII’s reign in the 1530s, the Tiltyard Towers once stood within the walled Tiltyard, where the Tudor monarchs held jousts and tournaments.

In other news:

* Lady Jane Grey: why do we want to believe the myth?The image of Lady Jane Grey, the abused child-woman and nine days queen, is encapsulated in a fraud. Why are we so keen to believe in an innocent, virginal Jane, asks Leanda de Lisle…

* First glimpse of lost library of Elizabethan polymath John DeeWhere to start with the legend and life of Dr Dee? Born on 13 July 1527, John Dee became one of the greatest scholars of the age, and a philosopher and courtier to Queen Elizabeth I.

Sunday Short Takes

Even though I had a bunch of articles last weekend, I didn’t get around to doing a round-up post. So, here’s an extra big one!

Lots of Shakespeare news in the past couple of weeks, which I’m sure is just the beginning of the Bard frenzy we’ll see in the next few months leading up to the 400th anniversary of his death in April 2016.

First up – several articles about the recent discoveries in the dig at New Place in Stratford (I admit, I tried to sneak a peek when I was in the town in May but I couldn’t see much):

* Shakespeare’s “kitchen” discovered during archaeological dig (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust)

* Shakespeare’s kitchen discovered in Stratford-upon-Avon dig (BBC)

Want to try your hand at helping to transcribe Shakespearean-era documents?

* Where there’s a quill … help to unpick manuscripts from the days of Shakespeare – article from The Guardian about the project. This is another example of my worlds colliding – this is built on the Zooniverse platform, which started as a citizen science program that I know a lot of scientists who have worked on with everyday people.

* Shakespeare’s World – link to the project itself

And speaking of Shakespearean documents, they will feature in some upcoming exhibitions in 2016:

* William Shakespeare’s last will and testament among key documents going on public show at Somerset House

* Shakespeare was ‘celebrity, matchmaker and theatre thief’, papers reveal

* William Shakespeare’s tryst with a female fanA diary entry, never before seen by the public, will be on display at the British Library next year

And in other news:

* Mary Rose Museum to re-open in 2016 with “best ever”, “unrestricted” views of ship – If you were planning to visit the Mary Rose Museum, you’ll have to wait until the summer of 2016, but it sounds like it will definitely we worth the wait!

* The annual TannerRitchie Publishing Holiday Sale is on, a great opportunity to stock up on digital versions of primary sources.

And finally:

* How to Make a Tudor Christmas Decoration, courtesy of English Heritage and Kenilworth Castle

Blog Tour Guest Post: “This Other Eden” by Margaret M. Williams

I’m delighted to be the next stop on the blog tour for Margaret M. Williams’ debut novel This Other Eden! Amazon links to purchase the book are available at the bottom of the excerpt.

About the author and the book:

Margaret is no stranger to adventure. She has been married for thirty three years to her Welsh husband, whom she met as result of a coach crash in Bulgaria, while they were travelling across Europe on the old Crusader route to Palestine.

Margaret has always been passionate about her family history, and it was through her research that she realised her Bowerbank line must have lived through and witnessed the events leading up to the Pilgrimage of Grace as it affected Cumberland. She used the actual names of family members as characters, and researched how certain trades would have dominated their imagined lives. Margaret visited the Eden Valley on several occasions and was struck by the beauty of the landscape and the river there, and walked along that narrow foothold above the water leading into the gorge described in the book. Margaret has published several short stories, and This Other Eden is her debut novel.

And an excerpt from This Other Eden to whet your appetite!

There could surely not be any place in England where the King’s agents had not ridden in recent years, since his marriage to Queen Anne.

Their task was to enforce the swearing of the hated Act of Succession to her children born to the King. To resist was treason. Even to speak in a derogatory manner of the King’s matrimonial arrangements was treason, and treason being punishable by death, many paid so for their opinions. No-one, high or low, lay or religious, was safe.

The Friar shuddered. Only a year ago, in the London springtime, three Carthusian monks suffered terribly for their conscience’s sake. Quietly, but staunchly, they refused to acknowledge the legality of the King’s divorce from Queen Katherine, and consequently the bastardising of their daughter, the Princess Mary.

For this, they were fastened to hurdles and dragged to Tyburn. They were hanged, then cut down whilst still living, to be disembowelled, mutilated and their bodies quartered. The arm of one of them was then nailed up over the door of his monastery as a dire warning to any others who might consider opposing royal authority.

Nor was the King’s friendship any guarantee against his wrath. When the break with Rome came, opposition to his supremacy in the Church resulted in the beheading of his former friend, Sir Thomas More. This death was more merciful than that of another Carthusian, Sebastian Newdigate, once a sporting companion of the King. He, with several other monks of the Charterhouse, were chained in a London street and weighted down with lead. There they were left, in their own excrement, deprived of food and water, and unable to stand upright, until after many days their agony was ended by the mercy of death.

The upheaval of the old order of religion was frightening. Not only those in high places, but the simple folk of England must watch their words. Loose talk in the alehouse, a hasty word, and an unwise opinion overheard, all of these might be reported to the King’s agents, and there were informants in plenty, eager to claim the reward offered by accusing friend or neighbour alike.

As Friar John walked the trackways of the Eden valley, he pondered long upon the fragments of news that, in time, filtered through to the isolated counties of northern England. All in religious orders were agreed that Thomas Cromwell, the King’s chief minister, was indeed a man to be feared, for had he not boasted that he would make his master the richest prince in Christendom? To do this he had already started to seize the lands and revenues of houses of religion in order to augment the King’s depleted coffers. In February, the Cistercian Abbey of Calder in Eskdale was closed. Later, news came that the Benedictine nuns of Seton had been evicted, and to the south, the houses of the Augustinians of Cartmel and Conishead closed.

Those who had known only the cloister were dispossessed, driven out to seek shelter and employment in the world they had renounced. True, it was said that some were to receive pensions, but there were those who would most surely be forced to beg. Many of the smaller foundations were already closed, but the richest houses had the most to fear. Nationwide, their wealth and possessions had already been carefully assessed by Cromwell’s agents, and those ripest for plunder were being systematically stripped of everything of value, and their lands and buildings sold to those who could afford to pay for their acquisition.

In spite of himself, the Big Friar smiled wryly as he remembered the disappointed faces of those Visitors who had made enquiry at Penrith Friary. What had the brethren there of value? Nothing that a King might covet, to be sure. Poor they had always been, begging alms, scratching a meagre living from their few acres of land, living from hand to mouth. In this instance, at least, poverty would seem to be their friend.

For whilst their wealthier neighbours were being uprooted, the lives of the poor friars continued as before. But for how long, Brother John wondered, how long?

In the Cumbrian springtime, the earth warmed slowly and with many a check, as if winter grudged to release its grip upon the land. But as the days of May sped by, the Big Friar marvelled yet again, as he never failed to do each year, at the beauty of the awakening countryside. As if it was revealed to him for the first time, he wondered at the brilliant green of the shining leaves of wild garlic that emerged in the damp and wooded places, to be followed by the white spheres of their flower heads, each composed of tiny star-like florets.

And the downy rosettes of foxgloves, overwintered in close anchorage to the drier ground of woodland clearings, now began to raise their tall spires towards the warmth of the strengthening sunlight. The streams were running fast, free of ice and full with melt water rushing down from the fells to join at length with the rivers Eden and Eamont. The people too, seemed to unbend somewhat, and take pleasure in the brighter days. To them, their daily round of toil, and the earning of their bread, was their first care. But they also felt the powerful surge of new life returning after the miseries of winter’s harshness.


Far away, at Greenwich palace, Queen Anne watched the May jousts, unaware that it was her last day of freedom.

The following day she was arrested, and rowed. upriver to the Tower of London. Under escort, she left the state barge, and the boom of its cannon announced her entry there as a prisoner.

Charges of adultery, and therefore treason, were brought against her, one of the charges being of incest with her own brother, Lord Rochford. These she vehemently denied, so too did four of the five men of the Court charged with her. Only poor, unheroic Mark Smeaton, a groom of the King’s chamber, and favoured by the Queen for his skill in playing the lute, was induced by his terror of the rack, to confess guilt.

On the fifteenth of May, Anne was tried by twenty-six peers, presided over by her own uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. Not one man spoke in her defence. Each knew the verdict expected of him, and pronounced her guilty. She was sentenced to death, the manner of which to be determined at the King’s pleasure, either by burning or beheading. Once that great love that Henry professed for her died, he accused her of entrapping him by witchcraft. And witches were burned: But his “pleasure” spared her the horrors of the fire, and also of the axe. Anne would die by the blow of a sharp French sword.

Execution was to be at eight o’clock on the nineteenth of May. The scaffold on which she would die was erected within sight of her chamber window, and her sleep was fitful on that last night of her life. The clothes for her last public appearance lay ready – a gown of grey damask, a bright crimson underskirt.

Dawn broke. Life could hold nothing more for her. She had gambled for great stakes, and she had lost. But what if Elizabeth had been a prince, or the son she had lost in the winter had lived?

Before sunrise coloured the eastern sky, a blackbird flew up to his favourite vantage point on the walls of the Tower. The pure cadences of his song rang out loud and clear in the early morning, and filled the chamber where the Queen lay. She listened to its silvery notes, remembering a time when she had sat in the shelter of the hornbeam, close to the river bower at Hampton Court. A blackbird had sung then, as she worked at her embroidery, and waited for the King’s barge to pull in at the landing stage below the mount there. Henry had loved her then, hardly able to be parted from her, even to attend to affairs of state.

Tears rose behind her closed eyelids as in memory she saw him leaping from the royal barge and rushing to greet her on the grassy slope leading from the river. “Sweetheart” he had called her then. But now the wheel had come full circle. The King’s roving eye had fallen upon one of her own waiting women, as it had when she herself had served Queen Katherine.

The sun was rising, and she could hear the subdued whispers of her ladies as they waited to perform their last duties for her. They dressed her with care, then she knelt to receive communion. She swore her innocence of the charges upon which she was condemned, both before and after receiving the sacrament.
The time came for her to die, but the headsman of Calais was delayed on the road, and it was not until later that morning that the guard came to escort her to the scaffold. The blackbird was silent now, from his lofty perch he looked down with an uncomprehending eye at the scene below.

He saw the Queen remove her headdress. Her hair was closely netted so as to leave her slender neck bare. There was a flash as the sunlight caught the blade of the sword. It descended, and a flood of crimson spread over the scaffold. A cannon boomed, to announce to the people of London that the woman many regarded, as the King’s whore was dead, and the blackbird rose in alarm, and flew away.

At Hampton Court Palace, workmen were removing the intertwined initials of Henry and Anne carved in the stonework. One, who had been employed all his working life at the Palace, walked down to the river where the Queen’s barge was moored. His orders were to burn away the late Queen’s white falcon badge from its prow.

“T’was not long ago,” he observed thoughtfully to the younger man accompanying him, “that I was sent to get rid of Queen Katherine’s coat of arms from this same barge.”

“What think you,” the younger man asked, “was Queen Anne really as wicked as men say?”

“Quiet now,” his companion replied, “say no more. If the King says she was, ’tis dangerous for any to say otherwise. It matters naught what such as we might think.”

Upcoming Books and Events for December 2015

Wow, this month’s round-up really managed to sneak up on me! Where did November go??


All of this month’s books have already been released in the UK and are now coming out in the US or books that I missed in last month’s round up:

Jasper: The Tudor Kingmaker by Sarah Elin Roberts, which was released at the end of October in the UK and will be out December 19 in the US.

A collection of essays entitled The Shakespeare Circle edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells was released at the end of October in the UK and will be released at the end of December in the US. This collection focusses on the people that Shakespeare would have interacted with in his life and sounds like an interesting approach to Shakespeare biography.

Claire Ridgway of The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society released her latest Tudor history book: Tudor Places of Great Britain at the beginning of November.

And finally, Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Everyday Life was released in early November in the UK and will be out in February 2016 in the US:

New Exhibitions

If you will allow me a little indulgence – I once again have a chance to highlight something that is actually taking place in my hometown! The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin will be launching Shakespeare in Print and Performance on December 21, 2015 and it will run through May 29, 2016. They haven’t published a dedicated page for the exhibition yet, but here’s the description from the Upcoming Exhibitions page:

Explore the legacy of William Shakespeare at the Harry Ransom Center. This exhibition provides insight into the origins of his works, the history of their publication and performance, the manner in which the texts have been studied on the page, and the plays interpreted on the stage. The Elizabethan world of Shakespeare and his contemporaries is presented through early printed books documenting his contemporary reputation, his textual sources, and his plays. Costume and set designs, promptbooks, and other ephemera showcase the variety of ways artists have translated his plays into performance.

I’ll definitely be stopping by (possibly more than once – one of the benefits of working at UT Austin!) and will take photos and do a blog post about the exhibition like I did with the King James Bible exhibit from a few years ago.

Continuing Exhibitions

The National Portrait Gallery, London launched Simon Schama’s Face of Britain exhibition on September 16 and it will run through January 4, 2016. More information on the exhibition here

Sunday Short Takes

Sad news to start this week’s round-up:

* Keith Michell, star of Six Wives of Henry VIII dies aged 89Keith Michell, star of The Six Wives of Henry VIII and artistic director of the Chichester Festival Theatre, dies after long and celebrated career

And in other news:

* Full collection built by Dukes of Portland to go on show for first timeThe Portland Collection, built up over centuries, is to go on display at the new Harley Gallery – Among the pieces that will go on display is the Nicholas Hilliard coronation miniature of Elizabeth I.

And a few videos to close out this week:

* Royals, Rascals and Us: 500 years of Hampton Court Palace – a film about the history of Hampton Court Palace made from thousands of drawings by kids

* Society of Antiquaries lecture by Philippa Glanville on the Inventory of Henry VIII

Sunday Short Takes

Here are a few stories from the past couple of weeks that caught my eye:

* ‘Witchmarks’ discovered at the Tower of LondonRecent extensive conservation of the Queen’s House at the Tower of London has revealed something quite extraordinary… over 59 apotropaic symbols, or ‘witchmarks’ as they are commonly known. … The marks are thought to date back from around 1540 to the early 18th century.

* A magical glimpse into the Tudor imagination: Lost library of John Dee to be revealedTreasured books from the lost Library of Tudor polymath John Dee will be revealed in a special exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians Museum in January 2016

* Yours for £2.1m, 9th-century manor house that is fit for a king (or several)An historic Isle of Wight manor house previously owned by no less than eight British monarchs goes on the market

* Hidden portrait of Henry VIII’s only son, Edward VI, emerges in painting of boy king who died at 15A previously unknown portrait of Henry VIII’s only son, Edward VI, revealed by tree ring-dating to have been created shortly after the king’s death at the age of 15, has been discovered in the art collection of London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.

Upcoming Books and Events for November 2015


A few books from the past couple of months that were previously released in the UK will be out in November in the US:

Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend by Steven Gunn will be out November 19 in the US:

… as will Terry Breverton’s The Tudor Kitchen: What the Tudors Ate & Drank

And a few releases from October that I missed…

The First Book of Fashion: The Book of Clothes of Matthaeus and Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg edited by Ulinka Rublack and Maria Hayward was released on October 22 in the UK and US.

And the interest in Jasper Tudor continues (yay!) with another addition to the growing number of works on him: Jasper: The Tudor Kingmaker by Sarah Elin Roberts, which was released at the end of October in the UK and will be out in December in the US.

And Stuff & Nonsense: Kings & Queens by Ian Baillie is a comic verse take on the lives of English Kings and Queens which came out at the end of October in both the UK and US.

Now, finally, on to the new releases for November!

Suzannah Lipscomb’s latest book, The King is Dead about the will of Henry VIII is out November 5 in the UK. I don’t see an official release in the US yet, but I’ll update when I find out more.

The illustrated 2nd edition of Barb Alexander’s The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty is out in a couple of days in the US and on November 19 in the UK.

Finally, Elizabeth Norton’s newest book The Temptation Of Elizabeth Tudor about Princess Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour is out November 5 in the UK and in January in the US.

Continuing Events

The National Portrait Gallery, London launched Simon Schama’s Face of Britain exhibition on September 16 and it will run through January 4, 2016. More information on the exhibition here

Sunday Short Takes

News has been a little light lately, but here are a few things that caught my eye:

* A brief history of witches by Suzannah LipscombBetween 1482 and 1782, thousands of people across Europe were accused of witchcraft and subsequently executed. But why were so many innocent people suspected of such a crime, and what would they have experienced?

* Erasmus Manuscript Saved for the Nation – From The British Library: We are delighted to announce that the British Library has acquired a unique manuscript containing the earliest known translation into English of any work by the great humanist scholar and reformer, Desiderius Erasmus (d. 1536).

* Inside Henry V’s secret chapel at Westminster AbbeyA hidden chapel built for King Henry V is opening to the public for the first time to mark the 600th Anniversary of the battle of Agincourt. – Since today is the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, I thought I would include this.

And finally…

A new podcast focussing on the Tudors has launched (with over 30 episodes ready to go!) called Rude Tudors. As you can probably guess from the name, it’s not for the kiddos. And you might recognize a website that gets a mention in one of the later episodes. 🙂