Sunday Short Takes

* Britain’s moral mythology: The 800-year-old ‘medieval encyclopaedia’ written by monks and fit for King Henry VIII goes on display

* Pembrokeshire Tudor trader’s house to open at St Fagans Museum

* Sixteenth-Century Girl’s love for Tudor SuffolkHaving grown up around streets called Anne Boleyn’s Walk and Aragon Avenue, Suzannah Lipscomb couldn’t become anything but a historian with a penchant for the Tudor period, could she? She tells STEVEN RUSSELL about her favourite Tudor spots in Suffolk

* Who was Henry VIII?Suzannah Lipscomb looks beyond the stereotypes that surround our most infamous monarch to ask: who was Henry VIII and when did it all go wrong? – From the History Today archives, reposted for Henry VIII’s birthday last week.

* The story of the Reformation needs reforming – Thought-provoking article from Eamon Duffy in The Telegraph

And finally…

* The Theatre – Archaeology and digital reconstruction of Shakespeare’s first theatre. I’ve embedded the fly-through video below but I recommend watching it on The Theatre’s site to see it larger.

Upcoming books, events, and exhibitions

Time for another monthly round-up of upcoming events! Feels like I was just doing the last one…


* David Loades’ Mary Rose, which came out in May in the UK, is still listed as due in July in the US. No specific date is listed on Amazon though. The US Kindle edition is available now.

* Maria Hayward is coming out with another great inventory work that she has edited, and this time it is actually relatively reasonably priced! (I still would like to find a copy of some of her other works like Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII for under $100!). This one is The Great Wardrobe Accounts of Henry VII and Henry VIII and is due out on July 19 in both the US and UK.


Eastbury Manor House (which I mentioned back in March) will be having a Tudor Games day on July 7 as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

On Saturday 7th July 10.00 -16.00 Eastbury Manor House welcomes you to join us in a day of Tudor sports and pastimes as part of the celebration of the Cultural Olympiad.

There will be birds of prey to stroke, archery to watch and try, craft activities and some small Tudor games inside the house. A family ticket only costs £6.00. Find out how amazing Tink the Hawk is or pose for a picture with Amy the barn owl (if you wish to take a picture it will cost £1.00) MYCA falconry have just opened a bird of prey centre, which is ran by volunteers and works on a donation and fundraising aspect and any donations will help their work. Please note there will be no flying displays but all your questions can be answered by the experts who care for them.

Have a go at defending Eastbury by practising your arrow firing skills, suitable for five+. If you are not feeling brave, watch the demonstrations at 11.30 and 13.30 and explore the archer’s tent.

There will themed family workshops where you can design a Tudor coat of arms. See us in Tudor costume too.

Katherine Diamond Heritage Events and Promotions officer ‘This is a unique opportunity to experience family friendly activities in a traditional Tudor setting’

Guided tours, the shop and tea room will be all available.

For more information call 0208 724 1002 or email


The British Museum‘s Shakespeare: Staging the World opens July 19 and runs through November 25. Click the picture of the Bard below to go to the press release:

Sunday Short Takes

* The remains of The Curtain have been found in London – here are several articles about the find:

Shakespeare’s Curtain theatre unearthed in east London

Is this a digger I see before me? ‘Wooden O’ stage of ‘lost’ Curtain theatre where Shakespeare premiered Henry V unearthed near Thames

Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre remains found (with video)

Does the rediscovery of Shakespeare’s Curtain theatre matter? Absolutely

* Mary Rose sailors ate diet of salt beef and biscuits, bone analysis shows

* Thomas Cromwell letter to Henry VIII before Anne of Cleves marriage discovered

* Woking Palace attacked by arsonists for a second timeDuring the Tudor period, Woking Palace was an important residence. Henry VIII spent considerable sums of money on Woking during his reign.

* Fort on St Catherine’s Island, Tenby, could reopen as visitor attractionOnce owned by Henry VII’s uncle Jasper, Earl of Pembroke, the island was sold by Tenby Corporation to the War Office in the 1860s to house a fort.

* Alice Simpson’s artist book The Dancing Chancellor about Sir Christopher Hatton is complete and now for sale. I’ve been exchanging emails with the artist for years and it is wonderful to see the final product. It’s gorgeous!

And finally, a humorous video for your enjoyment:

Sunday Short Takes

* Shakespeare’s ‘co-author’ named by Oxford scholarsAll’s Well That Ends Well has another author as well as William Shakespeare, according to research from Oxford University academics.

* Boleyn family bible to go on display at Norfolk Heritage CentreA rare and historic bible once owned by Anne Boleyn’s uncle at the family’s Norfolk home in Blickling will go on public display in Norwich next month.

* Italian bankers paid for Cabot voyageWhen John Cabot left Bristol for his historic voyage to North America in the 15th century, he did so with financial backing from Italian merchants – and appeared to already know that the “New World” was out there, according to the latest research.

* The Elusive Art of Making the Dead Speak – Interesting article by Hilary Mantel about striking the right balance when writing historical fiction.

And finally –

Last week’s In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 was about the Battle of Bosworth Field. You can listen from the website or download as a podcast on iTunes.

Will in My World

Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo by me in May 1998.

When I sat down to write my Happy Birthday Shakespeare post I realized that I have a hard time putting into words the impact that Shakespeare has had on my life. I have been an Anglophile pretty much my whole life and became obsessed with the Tudors in junior high school, so becoming a fan of Shakespeare was just natural.

Like many people, my first exposure to reading Shakespeare was in school, and I have to admit that I didn’t like it very much. Seeing movies based on the plays (the Burton & Taylor Taming of the Shrew being an early favorite) gave me an appreciation the textbooks couldn’t. Then, my senior year, my English teacher had us read Macbeth and Hamlet aloud. Even with high school students in Texas reading the plays, I finally got it: these words weren’t meant to be silently read at a desk, they were meant to be sounded out so that the rhythm and poetry of the words came through.

Since then I’ve had the opportunity to see plays performed live, from Hamlet at the Globe in London to Hamlet done by a 6-person cast in an old opera house on a small island off the coast of Maine, have visited the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC several times, done a Shakespeare London Walk and visited Stratford-upon-Avon and the Shakespeare Birthplace on my first visit to England in 1998.

Parallel with my interest in British History from an early age was my love of astronomy and science fiction, and there is a relationship to Shakespeare there too – from a Bard-quoting Klingon in Star Trek VI (subtitled The Undiscovered Country – from Hamlet) to the myriad of astronomical references in the plays. When we studied Julius Caesar in 10th grade we had to memorize some number of lines and I of course chose a section with an astronomy reference:

…But I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix’d and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumber’d sparks,
They are all fire and every one doth shine,
But there’s but one in all doth hold his place…

(My favorite line from the play though, comes from Act I: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…”)

I guess the point of all this rambling is that Shakespeare has long been a part of my life, and in ways that I wouldn’t have necessarily expected. And that’s part of the true genius of Shakespeare.

Sunday Short Takes

* To celebrate the upcoming Shakespeare: Staging the World exhibition at the British Museum, BBC Radio 4 is doing a 20-part series called Shakespeare’s Restless World that you can also subscribe to as a podcast. Be sure to check out the British Museum blog for some entries related to the series (and lot of other interesting things!).

* Gainsborough Old Hall reopens after revampGainsborough Old Hall, built by Sir Thomas Burgh between 1460 and 1480, has restored two previously unseen rooms and installed a new shop.

* An Inconvenient Princess – Interesting article about Bridget of York by Nancy Bilyeau on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog (which I’m sure most of you follow anyway, but just in case you don’t I wanted to highlight it here)

* And finally, some more humor from Horrible Histories:

Sunday Short Takes

* Nancy Bilyeau’s debut novel “The Crown” will be out early next year, but US readers can enter to win an advanced copy through Goodreads! Find out more about the drawing here. And allow me a small moment of pride in mentioning that Nancy is a submitter and commenter on my Tudor Q&A blog. I’m always amazed by the knowledgeable and talented people who have stumbled across the site!

* A Tudor Herbal c. 1520 – I think How to Be a Retronaut is embarking on a campaign to get on to this round-up every week by continuing to post cool things like this!

* Market news: Elizabethan costume piece tops Cowdray sale – A portrait once thought to have been of Elizabeth I by Marcus Gheeraerdts, sold above the estimate for £325,250

* The Fallstaff Experience in Stratford-upon-Avon is launching a new tour of the town – NO HOLDS BARD: a tour with William Shakespeare in person!

* English Historical Fiction Authors – a new group blog by authors of, you guessed it, English historical fiction

And finally, two articles from History Today:

* From the newest issue: Learning to be a Tudor – Thomas Penn examines M.J. Tucker’s article on the court of Henry VII, first published in History Today in 1969.

* And from the archives: Who was Henry VIII? – Suzannah Lipscomb looks beyond the stereotypes that surround our most infamous monarch to ask: who was Henry VIII and when did it all go wrong?

Upcoming lectures, classes, exhibitions and books

I’m way overdue for a round-up of upcoming lectures, events, books, etc. I’ll try to do these periodically to catch stuff a few weeks before they come out – so in late September I’ll catch the rest of the October things and maybe stuff coming in early November, and so forth. I have finally put together a spreadsheet where I can keep track of all these things! I know there will be some I miss, but I’ll do my best. 🙂

A couple of upcoming National Portrait Gallery talks of interest: September 1 – Alison Weir “Images of Tudor Queens” and October 6 – John Cooper “The Queen’s Agent” (about Francis Walsingham, Secretary to Elizabeth I)

This fall’s Adult Learning events at Hampton Court Palace from Historic Royal Palaces focuses on Elizabeth I. See the website for full details.

And Thereby Hangs a Tale – A new exhibition exploring the mysteries surrounding Anne and William’s marriage. From September 15, 2011 to January 29, 2012 at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon

Mary I finally joins the Yale English Monarchs Series this month in the UK and next month in the US. More information from Yale University Press and Amazon US and UK affiliate links below:

Sunday Short Takes

I finally had a nice stockpile of links to post this week… the last few weeks have been a bit dry.

* Mary Rose £2 coin floated on the Solent – A giant, inflatable replica of the coin I mentioned previously here

* Armada wreck discovered off Donegal – The wreckage of a sunken vessel believed to be from the Spanish Armada has been discovered off the Donegal coast.

* Plan to sail Golden Hinde down ThamesThe Golden Hinde could join in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant next year.

* Lanterns! Candles! Shakespeare for Jacobeans – A little past the Tudor/Elizabethan period, but a really neat project. More info here from the Shakespeare’s Globe site, including a video and how you can help make this happen!

Sunday Short Takes

* Alas poor William, I knew him: Scientists in bid to dig up the grave of Shakespeare to work out how he died

* New Battle of Bosworth trail reveals the true location of the historic English battlefield

* BBC History Magazine’s August 2011 Tudor Special

* BBC – Your Paintings – From the “About” page: Your Paintings is a website which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real. It is made up of paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions around the country.

Sunday Short Takes

* Tudor coroners’ records give clue to ‘real Ophelia’ for Shakespeare – I saw a lot of articles going around last week on this discovery by Dr. Steven Gunn, but I liked the discussion in this one of safety in the period in general. I’m particularly intrigued by the fatal maypole accidents…

* Mary Arden’s Farm blog – If you’re interested in Tudor and Elizabethan daily life topics, check out this new blog from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

* English Heritage Free Sites Audio Tours – English Heritage has put up mp3 versions of audio tours for their free sites that you can download. Be sure to check out some of the other goodies in their multimedia library!

* Damon Albarn and the Elizabethan magical mystery man and The Mystical Artefacts Of John Dee At The British Museum – I don’t get a whole lot of hits on my “John Dee” news alert, so it was particularly surprising to get two in one week (even though they are related, prompted by a new opera)

* Gunpowder Plot documents among millions of papers put online by National Archives and Fourth and final part of State Papers Online – I’ve linked to related stories on this topic in the past and it’s nice to see that it is finally complete. Unfortunately there still doesn’t appear to be a way for individuals to access it without an institutional affiliation (which I’m lucky to have through work!).

* And finally, Mullions XP – Operating System For The Tudor Times, a fun video sent to me by Stephanie through twitter. Enjoy!

Sunday Short Takes

* A couple of portraits of Tudor interest are up for auction at Sotheby’s next week, including this copy of a portrait of Jane Seymour. More interestingly, spotted on Hope Walker’s twitter @HansEworth, is this portrait of Edward Seymour Earl of Hertford, attributed to Eworth.

* Dig For Shakespeare is back and starting their new field season tomorrow (April 11). If you happen to be in the Stratford-upon-Avon area in the next few months, you can see the dig live.

* Margaret George has ventured back in to Tudor fiction with her new book Elizabeth I. I read The Autobiography of Henry VIII in high school and loved it, but I haven’t read any of her books since (although I have Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles on my shelf). I might have to pick this one up though since I haven’t read as much fiction on the later part of Elizabeth I’s life.

Amazon affiliate links below:

Sunday Short Takes

* All the world’s a stage: British Museum to hold blockbuster Shakespeare show ahead of London Olympics

* Mary Rose treasures to go on show – Video story from the BBC. They talk longbows with Robert Hardy, whom some will recognize as Robert Dudley from “Elizabeth R” with Glenda Jackson, and others will recognize as Cornelius Fudge from the Harry Potter movies (and of course, many, many other things). I always forget that he is an expert on longbows until something like this comes along to remind me!

* David Starkey and Jennifer Scott discuss the Royal Portrait

Sunday Short Takes

Lots of links piled up this week!

* Video: History comes alive at Katharine of Aragon festival – Some of the events from Peterborough Cathedral‘s Katharine of Aragon Festival

* Historic ‘graffiti’ etching found in church window pane – This caught my eye because it reminded me of the poem that Elizabeth is said to have scratched into a window in Woodstock while she was under house arrest in her sister’s reign

Many art-related things:

* The Changing Face of William Shakespeare – Exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York (with several related events scheduled during the run of the exhibition). And a related article from the BBC: Shakespeare portrait in New York

* Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco – Amazing historical fashions recreated in paper

* Henry’s 88 faces: Bridgewater State University art professor paints series of portraits transporting Britain’s infamous 16th-century monarch into the present – From More info from the Diehl Art Gallery blog

Some upcoming talks of interest:

* Twilight Talks at the Mary Rose Museum – Dr Suzannah Lipscomb discusses Henry VIII in March and writer Elizabeth Norton speaks on Catherine Parr in April

* The Whore and the Virgin: Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I by Alison Weir and Tracy Borman at Kensington Central Library

And to combine both of the categories above, some talks about art:

‘Lambert Barnard and his World’ – Talks and information on Barnard’s art in Chichester Cathedral (which is raising funds to conserve and study the works). The first talk has already occurred and you can download the text of the lecture at the link above.

And last, but certainly not least, video of Hope Walker’s talk “Exploring the London Stranger-Painters: Hans Eworth and His Contemporaries” at the National Portrait Gallery last December. Some of you might recognize Hope’s name as an occasional commenter on the blogs here at this site. Also, be sure to check out her site on Hans Eworth & The London Stranger Painters, which is the web aspect of her dissertation research.

Sunday Short Takes (Monday edition)

Since I was off doing my Labor Day cookout on Sunday, I figured I would so my Sunday blogging on Labor Day. 🙂

* Shakespeare’s face recreated for UK HIstory Channel program called “Death Masks”

* Reformation documents go on show – New exhibition from the National Library of Scotland. Additional article here.

* Hilary Mantel’s award-winning “Wolf Hall” is now available in paperback in the US (Amazon links below, of course). Macmillan has a nice page up for the book that includes links to a book club discussion guide, videos and more.

The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare

I really need to start checking my draft posts folder more often! I’ve had this one in there for a couple of months, so my apologies that I’m just now posting about it.

The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare

IN LONDON IN THE WINTER OF 1795, a 19-year-old apprentice named William-Henry Ireland pretended he’d discovered an unknown play in Shakespeare’s handwriting while rummaging in an old trunk.

The boy had hoped to impress his chilly, Shakespeare-worshipping father. Instead he caused a public sensation. No one had seen any of Shakespeare’s manuscripts before. Scholars, dukes, the future king, the poet laureate—people who should have known better—were overjoyed. The new play was greeted as Shakespeare’s lost masterpiece and staged before a tumultuous full house at the Drury Lane Theatre.

The play and the boy’s other forgeries were forensically implausible, but the people who inspected them ached to see first hand the words that had flowed from Shakespeare’s quill. So see them they did.

You can learn more about it here:

and the usual Amazon order links below:

Sunday short takes

This is the first time in a few weeks I’ve had a few stories stack up so I could do a “short takes”!

* First up, from Foose, a review from the Spectator of G.W. Bernard’s book “Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions” (which I posted about back in February)

* More excavations at the site of The Theatre in Shoreditch (previously mentioned here and here) are going on this summer, and you can follow along at the Museum of London’s “Working Life of the Museum” blog (here’s a link to the first post on this year’s excavations)

* A 300-dish dessert banquet served to Elizabeth I in 1575 was recreated at Kenilworth Castle

* And finally, a few more laughs from Henry 8.0, A Tudor Holiday

Sunday short takes

* The dig at Shakespeare’s New Place that I’ve mentioned previously has a website where you can follow the excavation and see what they’ve been finding:

* Little Miss Sunnydale has posted photos from a visit to Ludlow Castle, along with information on Princess Mary’s time there.

* Gareth Russell has been blogging the fall of Anne Boleyn as it happened in 1536.
The posts so far:
May 1st, 1536: May Day and May 2nd, 1536: The Queen’s Arrest

Shakespeare Dig Begins

The dig at New Place that I posted about last November has begun! Here are some articles about the early finds:

From The Guardian:

Dig seeks William Shakespeare’s shards for ale in his Stratford back garden

Pottery scraps and other finds unearthed on site of New Place mansion may help to rewrite playwright’s story

Archaeologists in Stratford-upon-Avon have made a sensational discovery: Shakespeare’s broken beer jug. Possibly.

Scraps of pottery, broken clay pipe and a 19th century penny have emerged from a muddy hole in what was a garden until a week ago. But this is the most extensive hunt for Shakespeare in his own backyard in 150 years, and every scrap is precious.

In 1597 the playwright returned from London a rich and famous man and bought New Place, the second best house in his home town. He had a fair copy made of his title deeds, now in the archives of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, owner of the site and a string of other properties linked with the most famous playwright in the world. The house vanished centuries ago but Birmingham Archaeology and volunteers are joining forces to recover any evidence left in the ground.

Full article

And another from The Telegraph:

Archaeologists dig up Shakespeare’s ‘cesspit’

Archaeologists believe they are on the cusp of shedding new light on the life of William Shakespeare – by digging up what may have been the playwright’s cesspit.

Experts have begun excavating the ruins of New Place, Shakespeare’s former home in Stratford-upon-Avon, which was demolished 250 years ago.

Although little remains of the property, the team, led by Birmingham Archaeology, believes it has identified a rubbish tip or cesspit used by the 16th century poet.

Fragments of pottery and broken clay pipe have already been retrieved from a muddy hole on the site, which they claim could yield some of the most significant discoveries about Shakespeare in decades.

The dig focuses on three areas of the property, which Shakespeare bought in 1597 when he returned to his home town from London having achieved fame – including the so-called knot garden at the rear of the building.

Full article