New and forthcoming
Christmas in Tudor times was a period of feasting, revelry and merrymaking ‘to drive the cold winter away’. A carnival atmosphere presided at court, with a twelve-day-long festival of entertainments, pageants, theatre productions and ‘disguisings’, when even the king and queen dressed up in costume to fool their courtiers. Throughout the festive season, all ranks of subjects were freed for a short time from everyday cares to indulge in eating, drinking, dancing and game-playing.
We might assume that our modern Christmas owes much to the Victorians. In fact, as Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke reveal in this fascinating book, many of our favourite Christmas traditions date back much further. Carol-singing, present-giving, mulled wine and mince pies were all just as popular in Tudor times, and even Father Christmas and roast turkey dinners have their origins in this period. The festival was so beloved by English people that Christmas traditions survived remarkably unchanged in this age of tumultuous religious upheaval.
Beautifully illustrated with original line drawings throughout, this enchanting compendium will fascinate anyone with an interest in Tudor life – and anyone who loves Christmas.
Behind the Throne is a history of family life.
The families concerned were royal families. But they still had to get up in the morning. They ate and entertained their friends and worried about money. Henry VIII kept tripping over his dogs. George II threw his son out of the house. James I had to cut back on the drink bills.
The great difference is that royal families had more help with their lives than most. Charles I maintained a household of 2,000 people. Victoria’s medical establishment alone consisted of thirty doctors, three dentists and a chiropodist. Even in today’s more democratic climate, Elizabeth II keeps a full-time staff of 1200. A royal household was a community, a vast machine. Everyone, from James I’s Master of Horse down to William IV’s Assistant Table Decker, was there to smooth the sovereign’s path through life while simultaneously confirming his or her status.
Behind the Throne uncovers the reality of five centuries of life at the English court, taking the reader on a remarkable journey from one Queen Elizabeth to another and exploring life as it was lived by clerks and courtiers and clowns and crowned heads: the power struggles and petty rivalries, the tension between duty and desire; the practicalities of cooking dinner for thousands, or ensuring the king always won when he played a game of tennis.
Behind the Throne is nothing less than a domestic history of the royal household, a reconstruction of life behind the throne. Readers go on progress with Elizabeth I as she takes her court and her majesty to her subjects. They dance the conga round the state rooms of Buckingham Palace with George VI.
They find out what it was like to dine with queens, and walk with kings.
The youngest of William the Conqueror's sons, Henry I (1100-35) was never meant to be king, but he was destined to become one of the greatest of all medieval monarchs, both through his own ruthlessness and intelligence and through the dynastic legacy of his daughter Matilda, who began the Plantagenet line that would rule England until 1485. A self-consciously diligent and thoughtful king, his rule was looked back on as the real post-invasion re-founding of England as a new realm, integrated into the continent, wealthy and stable.
Edmund King's wonderful portrait of Henry shows him as a strikingly charismatic and thoughtful man. His life was dogged by a single great disaster, the death of his teenage heir William in the White Ship disaster. Despite astonishing numbers of illegitimate sons, Henry was now left with only a daughter. This fact would shape the rest of the 12th century and beyond.
Do you know your Kings and Queens of England by heart? Can you tell your Ethelred from your Aethelbert? Your Marcia from your Matilda?
Well, passionate educator Mr Gwynne is back – and this time he is taking on the entirety of British history – so you will never be in the dark again. Within the pages of this little gem – bursting with our small island’s rich past – he teaches us the history of England through her remarkable monarchs.
It is Mr Gwynne’s belief that a certain amount of what you might read in other history books may well be wrong. It is his aim to show you why.
Concise, thorough and utterly fascinating, this is the perfect book to be enjoyed by young and old, to be read at a time when, for many, harking back to our rich past seems much more preferable than living in the dreary present.
And when it comes to the benefits of education, Mr Gwynne is never wrong!
Part of the Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers in a collectible format
In the popular imagination, as in her portraits, Elizabeth I is the image of monarchical power. The Virgin Queen ruled over a Golden Age: the Spanish Armada was defeated; English explorers reached the ends of the earth; a new Church of England rose from the ashes of past conflict; the English Renaissance bloomed in the genius of Shakespeare, Spenser and Sidney. But the image is also armour.
In this illuminating new account of Elizabeth's reign, Helen Castor shows how England's iconic queen was shaped by profound and enduring insecurity-an insecurity which was both a matter of practical political reality and personal psychology. From her precarious upbringing at the whim of a brutal, capricious father and her perilous accession after his death, to the religious division that marred her state and the failure to marry that threatened her line, Elizabeth lived under constant threat. But, facing down her enemies with a compellingly inscrutable public persona, the last and greatest of the Tudor monarchs would become a timeless, fearless queen.
Part of the Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers in a collectible format
Henry VII was one of England's unlikeliest monarchs. An exile and outsider with barely a claim to the throne, his victory over Richard III at Bosworth Field seemed to many in 1485 like only the latest in the sequence of violent convulsions among England's nobility that would come to be known as the wars of the roses - with little to suggest that the obscure Henry would last any longer than his predecessor. To break that cycle of division, usurpation, deposition and murder, he had both to maintain a grip on power and to convince England that his rule was both rightful and effective. Here, Sean Cunningham explores how, in his ruthless, controlling and personal kingship, Henry VII did so; in the process founding the Tudor dynasty and, arguably, helping to lay the foundations for modern government.
Sean Cunningham is a Principal Records Specialist at The National Archives. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he has published widely on late medieval and early Tudor England. His books include, most recently, a historical biography of Henry VII.
Richard I's reign is both controversial and seemingly contradictory. One of England's most famous medieval monarchs and a potent symbol of national identity, he barely spent six months on English soil during a ten-year reign and spoke French as his first language. Contemporaries dubbed him the 'Lionheart', reflecting a carefully cultivated reputation for bravery, prowess and knightly virtue, but this supposed paragon of chivalry butchered close to 3,000 prisoners in cold blood on a single day. And, though revered as Christian Europe's greatest crusader, his grand campaign to the Holy Land failed to recover the city of Jerusalem from Islam.
Seeking to reconcile this conflicting evidence, Thomas Asbridge's incisive reappraisal of Richard I's career questions whether the Lionheart really did neglect his kingdom, considers why he devoted himself to the cause of holy war and asks how the memory of his life came to be interwoven with myth. Richard emerges as a formidable warrior-king, possessed of martial genius and a cultured intellect, yet burdened by the legacy of his dysfunctional dynasty and obsessed with the pursuit of honour and renown.
Less than forty years after the golden age of Elizabeth I, England was at war with itself. The bloody, devastating civil wars set family against family, friend against friend. At the head of this disintegrating kingdom was Charles I. His rule would change the face of the monarchy for ever.
Charles I’s reign is one of the most dramatic in history, yet Charles the man remains elusive. Too often he is recalled as weak and stupid, his wife, Henrietta Maria, as spoilt and silly: the cause of his ruin. In this portrait -- informed by newly disclosed manuscripts, including letters between the king and his queen -- Leanda de Lisle uncovers a Charles I who was principled and brave, but also fatally blinkered. He is revealed as a complex man who pays the price for bringing radical change; Henrietta Maria as a warrior queen and political player as impressive as any Tudor. Here too are the cousins who befriended and betrayed them: the peacocking Henry Holland, whose brother engineered the king’s fall; and the magnetic ‘last Boleyn girl’, Lucy Carlisle.
This is a tragic story for our times, of populist politicians and religious war, of a new media and the reshaping of nations, in which women vied with men for power. For Charles it ended on the scaffold. Condemned as a traitor and murderer, he was also heralded as a martyr: his reign destined to sow the seeds of democracy across Britain and the New World.
James's reign marked one of the rare breaks in England's monarchy. Already James VI of Scotland, he rode south on Elizabeth I's death to become James I of England and Ireland, uniting the British Isles for the first time and founding the Stuart dynasty which would, with several lurches, reign for over a century. His descendant still occupies the throne.
Thomas Cogswell's dramatic new biography brings James to life as a complex, learned, curious man and great survivor, one who drastically changed court life in London and presided over the Authorized Version of the Bible and the establishment of English settlements across the globe. Although he failed to unite England and Scotland, he insisted that ambassadors acknowledge him as King of Great Britain, and that vessels from both countries display a version of the current Union Flag.
Cogswell tells the story of James's personal life and private passions as much as his public achievements. James was often accused of being too informal and insufficiently regal - but when his son, Charles I, decided to redress these criticisms in his own reign he was destroyed. This is a vivid portrait of an often underappreciated monarch.
Cnut, or Canute, is one of the great 'what ifs' of English history. The Dane who became King of England after a long period of Viking attacks and settlement, his reign could have permanently shifted eleventh-century England's rule to Scandinavia. Stretching his authority across the North Sea to become king of Denmark and Norway, and with close links to Ireland and an overlordship of Scotland, this formidable figure created a Viking Empire at least as plausible as the Anglo-Norman Empire that would emerge in 1066.
Ryan Lavelle's illuminating book cuts through myths and misconceptions to explore this fascinating and powerful man in detail. Cnut is most popularly known now for the story of the king who tried to command the waves, relegated to a bit part in the medieval story, but as this biography shows, he was a conqueror, political player, law maker and empire builder on the grandest scale, one whose reign tells us much about the contingent nature of history.
George I was not the most charismatic of the Hanoverian monarchs to have reigned in England but he was probably the most important. He was certainly the luckiest.
Born the youngest son of a landless German duke, he was taken by repeated strokes of good fortune to become, first the ruler of a major state in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and then the sovereign of three kingdoms (England, Ireland and Scotland).
Tim Blanning's incisive short biography examines George's life and career as a German prince, and as King. Fifty-four years old when he arrived in London in 1714, he was a battle-hardened veteran, who put his long experience and deep knowledge of international affairs to good use in promoting the interests of both Hanover and Great Britain. When he died, his legacy was order and prosperity at home and power and prestige abroad. Disagreeable he may have been to many, but he was also tough, determined and effective, at a time when other European thrones had started to crumble.
The FIRST MAJOR BIOGRAPHY to seek out the real Charles, from the New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth the Queen.
PERFECT for fans of THE CROWN.
'For all we know about Prince Charles, there is so much we didn't know - until now.' Tom Brokaw
Drawing on extensive access to the Royal Family's inner circle, Sally Bedell Smith delivers unprecedented insights into Prince Charles, a man who possesses a fiercely independent spirit, and yet has spent his life in waiting for the ultimate role.
Beginning with his lonely childhood, Smith details his intellectual quests, his entrepreneurial pursuits, and his love affairs, from the tragedy of his marriage to Diana to his eventual reunion with Camilla, as well as his relationship with the next generation of royals, including Will, Kate, Harry, and his beloved grandchildren.
As this sweeping biography shows, Prince Charles is more complicated and compelling than we knew, until now.
'Brilliant, startling. The royal biography everyone's talking about' Daily Mail
A Daily Telegraph Book of the Year
The story of England’s medieval queens is vivid and stirring, packed with tragedy, high drama and even comedy. It is a chronicle of love, murder, war and betrayal, filled with passion, intrigue and sorrow, peopled by a cast of heroines, villains, stateswomen and lovers. In the first volume of this epic new series, Alison Weir strips away centuries of romantic mythology and prejudice to reveal the lives of England’s queens in the century after the Norman Conquest.
Beginning with Matilda of Flanders, who supported William the Conqueror in his invasion of England in 1066, and culminating in the turbulent life of the Empress Maud, who claimed to be queen of England in her own right and fought a bitter war to that end, the five Norman queens emerge as hugely influential figures and fascinating characters.
Much more than a series of individual biographies, Queens of the Conquest is a seamless tale of interconnected lives and a rich portrait of English history in a time of flux. In Alison Weir’s hands these five extraordinary women reclaim their rightful roles at the centre of English history.
*20th anniversary edition featuring a new afterword*
Glamour. Duty. Tragedy: The Woman Behind the Princess.
Sarah Bradford delivers an authoritative and explosive study of the greatest icon of the twentieth century: Diana.
After more than a decade interviewing those closest to the Princess and her select circle, Sarah Bradford exposes the real Diana: the blighted childhood, the old-fashioned courtship which saw her capture the Prince of Wales, the damage caused by the spectre of Camilla Parker Bowles, through to the collapse of the royal marriage and Diana's final and complicated year as single woman.
Diana paints an honest portrait of a woman riddled with contradictions and whose vulnerability and unique empathy with the suffering made her one of the most extraordinary figures of the modern age.
Few relationships fire our imagination like that of Elizabeth I and her 'bonnie sweet Robin' - the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley.
Almost immediately after she became queen, Elizabeth's infatuation with the married Earl became the subject of letters from scandalized ambassadors. And when Dudley's wife, Amy, died a mere two years later under suspicious circumstances many speculated that Elizabeth and Robert would marry.
They never did, although by the time Robert died he had been Elizabeth's councillor and commander of her army, had sat by her bed in sickness and represented her on state occasions. But she had also humiliated him, made him dance attendance on her other suitors, and tried to have him clapped in prison when he finally broke loose and married again.
Elizabeth and Leicester is a portrait - at times a startlingly intimate one - of the tie between two of the people who forced their age; of a relationship where, unusually, a woman held all the power; of an edgy yet enduring love that still speaks to us today.