Waiting for Fall: Books I’m Craving

One of the worst things about summer, aside from the heat and the humidity, is having to wait until publishers bring out their fall books. Here are some of the ones that I’m awaiting eagerly:

Elizabeth’s Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman (already published in the UK; September for the US):

A source of endless fascination and speculation, the subject of countless biographies, novels, and films, Elizabeth I is now considered from a thrilling new angle by the brilliant young historian Tracy Borman. So often viewed in her relationships with men, the Virgin Queen is portrayed here as the product of women—the mother she lost so tragically, the female subjects who worshipped her, and the peers and intimates who loved, raised, challenged, and sometimes opposed her.

In vivid detail, Borman presents Elizabeth’s bewitching mother, Anne Boleyn, eager to nurture her new child, only to see her taken away and her own life destroyed by damning allegations—which taught Elizabeth never to mix politics and love. Kat Astley, the governess who attended and taught Elizabeth for almost thirty years, invited disaster by encouraging her charge into a dangerous liaison after Henry VIII’s death. Mary Tudor—“Bloody Mary”—envied her younger sister’s popularity and threatened to destroy her altogether. And animosity drove Elizabeth and her cousin Mary Queen of Scots into an intense thirty-year rivalry that could end only in death.

[I’m reading the UK edition of this and am finding it excellent.]

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor (October 2010 in the UK; February 2011 in the US, but I’m not waiting):

The boy in the bed was just fifteen years old. He had been handsome, perhaps even recently; but now his face was swollen and disfigured by disease, and by the treatments his doctors had prescribed in the attempt to ward off its ravages. Their failure could no longer be mistaken. When Edward VI – Henry VIII’s longed-for son – died in 1553, extraordinarily, there was no one left to claim the title King of England. For the first time, all the contenders for the crown were female. In 1553, England was about to experience the ‘monstrous regiment’ – the unnatural rule – of a woman. But female rule in England also had a past. Four hundred years before Edward’s death, Matilda, daughter of Henry I and granddaughter of William the Conquerer, came tantalisingly close to securing her hold on the power of the crown. And between the 12th and the 15th centuries three more exceptional women – Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and Margaret of Anjou – discovered, as queens consort and dowager, how much was possible if the presumptions of male rule were not confronted so explicitly. The stories of these women – told here in all their vivid humanity – illustrate the paradox which the female heirs to the Tudor throne had no choice but to negotiate. Man was the head of woman; and the king was the head of all. How, then, could a woman be king, how could royal power lie in female hands?

The Wars of the Roses by Michael Hicks (October 2010 in the US):

The Wars of the Roses (1455–85) were a major turning point in English history. But the underlying causes for the successive upheavals have been hotly contested by historians ever since. In this original and stimulating new synthesis, distinguished historian Michael Hicks examines the difficult economic, military, and financial crises and explains, for the first time, the real reasons why the Wars of the Roses began, why they kept recurring, and why, eventually, they ceased. Alongside fresh assessments of key personalities, Hicks sheds new light on the significance of the involvement of the people in politics, the intervention of foreign powers in English affairs, and a fifteenth-century credit crunch. Combining a meticulous dissection of competing dynamics with a clear account of the course of events, this is a definitive and indispensable history of a compelling, complex period.

[Hicks already has a book out by this title, but this seems to be a different one.]

The Last White Rose: Dynasty, Rebellion and Treason – The Secret Wars Against the Tudors by Desmond Seward (September 2010).

This is a brilliant new interpretation of one of the most dramatic periods of British history. The Wars of the Roses didn’t end at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Despite the death of Richard III and Henry VII’s victory, it continued underground into the following century with plots, pretenders and subterfuge by the ousted white rose faction. In a brand new interpretation of this turning point in history, well known historian Desmond Seward reviews the story of the Tudors’ seizure of the throne and shows that for many years they were far from secure. He challenges the way we look at the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, explaining why there were so many Yorkist pretenders and conspiracies, and why the new dynasty had such difficulty establishing itself. King Richard’s nephews, the Earl of Warwick and the little known de la Pole brothers, all had the support of dangerous enemies overseas, while England was split when the lowly Perkin Warbeck skilfully impersonated one of the princes in the tower in order to claim the right to the throne. Warwick’s surviving sister Margaret also became the desperate focus of hopes that the White Rose would be reborn. The book also offers a new perspective on why Henry VIII, constantly threatened by treachery, real or imagined, and desperate to secure his power with a male heir, became a tyrant.

Margaret Beaufort: The Mother of the Tudor Dynasty by Elizabeth Norton (September 2010 in the UK)

Divorced at ten, a mother at thirteen & three times a widow. The extraordinary true story of the ‘Red Queen’, Lady Margaret Beaufort, matriarch of the Tudors. Born in the midst of the Wars of the Roses, Margaret Beaufort became the greatest heiress of her time. She survived a turbulent life, marrying four times and enduring imprisonment before passing her claim to the crown of England to her son, Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs. Margaret’s royal blood placed her on the fringes of the Lancastrian royal dynasty. After divorcing her first husband at the age of ten, she married the king’s half-brother, Edmund Tudor, becoming a widow and bearing her only child, the future Henry VII, before her fourteenth birthday. Margaret was always passionately devoted to the interests of her son who claimed the throne through her. She embroiled herself in both treason and conspiracy as she sought to promote his claims, allying herself with the Yorkist Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, in an attempt to depose Richard III. She was imprisoned by Richard and her lands confiscated, but she continued to work on her son’s behalf, ultimately persuading her fourth husband, the powerful Lord Stanley, to abandon the king in favour of Henry on the eve of the decisive Battle of Bosworth. It was Lord Stanley himself who placed the crown on Henry’s head on the battlefield. Henry VII gave his mother unparalleled prominence during his reign. She established herself as an independent woman and ended her life as regent of England, ruling on behalf of her seventeen-year-old grandson, Henry VIII.

[I’m a little wary of this one, having found some odd errors in her She-Wolves book in the chapter on Isabella, and the statement that Margaret ruled England as Henry VIII’s regent makes me decidedly nervous, since Henry was not placed under a regency, but we’ll see.]

Towton: The Battle of Palm Sunday Field by John Sadler (September 2010–no description yet).

I could find some more if I worked at it, but this is already going to be a very expensive fall!

11 thoughts on “Waiting for Fall: Books I’m Craving”

  1. I have 'Elizabeth's Women' – it came out last Autumn here. And I have Desmond Seward's book on order. I like the sound of the 'She Wolves' book. Susan, can I ask you, is there a 'fair' bio on Margaret of Anjou which you wold recommend?

  2. Btw, I share your apprehension about Elizabeth Norton – her book on Anne Boleyn is merely a straight-forward narrative of what we already know. As such, it was hugely disapponting.

  3. Susan Higginbotham

    Hi, Anjere! Probably the best book on Margaret of Anjou is Helen Maurer's "Margaret of Anjou: Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England." Unfortunately, as the title implies, it's more of a study in queenship than a full-fledged biography of Margaret. J. L. Laynesmith also includes Margaret in her queenship study, "The Last Medieval Queens."

    For biographies, the best are J. J. Bagley's "Margaret of Anjou" and Jock Haswell's "The Ardent Queen," but they're both pretty dated.

  4. I'm intrigued by the Seward book, but also wary- I was put off by Seward's almost strident dislike of his subject in his biography of RIII- and I'm certainly no Ricardian myself! I would like to know more about plots against the early Tudors beyond Perkin Warbeck, though.

  5. Susan Higginbotham

    Yes, I'm a little wary of the Seward book too–the Richard III book was a bit much. I did enjoy his Wars of the Roses book, though, especially in its portrayals of the Earl of Oxford and Bishop Morton, so I'm crossing my fingers.

  6. Michele at Reader's Respite

    I have been really excited about the Norton book. But now I think I'll wait to hear what you think before I go out and buy that one….

  7. Interesting bunch of books, Susan. I have the new Hicks on order, and it's taking its sweet time! The Seward book does look interesting, but I'll bear everyone's comments in mind when the time comes.

  8. I just Wishlist-ed Elizabeth's Women yesterday, so I am glad to see it on your list. Thanks for the others – I will definitely check these out soon!

  9. In the matter of the new WOTR it’s a change of publisher as much as anything else. I shall nip down to Foyles to ascertain if’s there’s anything actually new.

    Thanks for the tip about the forthcoming Seward and Norton books. I have posted to the BL along with MH and hopefully it’ll a bit more speedier than it was with Ashdown-Hill and Carson.

    I concur with the comments about Seward – that final paragraph in his take on R3 had even me gagging. I can only hope he himself has been wary about H8 or he might just find Dr. David Starkey on his back.

    I can’t wait to discover Norton’s take on Margaret Beaufort having already read M.K. Jones and others such as Margaret Tabor, Margaret Domville and Margaret Routh. Curious is it not that these ladies share the same name as their subject?

    As it is MB did do a brief stint as regent between the time of her son’s demise and her grandson’s coming of age though it’s not correct to state that she ended her life ruling as regent; H8 came of age on 28th June 1509 while she didn’t die until 29th June 1509. And it’s that curious incident of passing on just 24 hours after ceasing to be regent coupled with the fact she didn’t die in the Old Palace of Westminster but across the road in the Abbey that had my curiosity raging rampant. Further investigation including a field trip to the Abbey has thrown up some interesting and at the same time disturbing information in regard to the circumstances surrounding her death. Just say I’m like Lt. Colombo on this one.

    Finally may I endorse your recommendation in respect of Tracy Borman’s book on Elizabeth’s women. An excellent read which I thoroughly enjoyed.

  10. Now THIS is a great book list ! I'll have to add to my shopping list! I did have to relent and bought Tracy Borman's book – I will start it after I finish the Brothers of Gwynedd (half way through so that's not too long!) Thanks for posting about all of these must read" titles!

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