No Eyes to Read but Ears to Listen – Books 4 to 9 – History Part 1

I have always enjoyed history, in fact when I was still at school I was totally torn between whether to drop History or Geography as we weren’t allowed, back then, to continue to study both.  I also love Geography and after much debating and deliberating it was Geography much to my History teachers disappointment which I continued with.  The history bug never left me though and whether it be fact or fiction I lap up the books I find.

Two of my favourite Historical authors are Alison Weir who mainly writes biographies and Philippa Gregory who is know extremely well-known for her novels which on the whole are historical accurate in setting if not always in the story they tell.  Anyone who reads Gregory’s books must always remember that it is a work of fiction for I have heard those who after seeing the film adapted from ‘The Other Boylen Girl’ think that all it contained was fact.

So what have I been listening to, you ask.  You do, don’t you?

Well The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory, the story of Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife.  A wonderful insight into a lady whose life was destined to be sad from the moment she fell in love with Arthur, Prince of Wales.  Henry would never be Arthur, she would always be a proud Spanish Infanta.  A wonderful insight into how the marriage was driven apart by the necessity of the time for a King to have a male heir at any cost.

The Other Queen also by Philippa Gregory is the story of Mary Queen of Scots and neatly shows the very reason why Henry feared not having a male heir.  After his death a series of women laid claim to the throne, most famously Elizabeth and Mary.  Gregory’s take on this well-known part of the history which spans the border of the Scots and English is a great introduction to not only the two queens but also to the myriad of secondary characters which manipulated, plotted and scremed for the power of the throne of England which surely any woman, poor and weak and insignificant as their species is could not hold.

Isabella – The She-Wolf of France by Alison Weir is a biography of another Queen this time Edwards II’s wife, although it is easy to see similarities between both her and Katherine of Aragon.  Born and raised to be a Queen who ruled rather than simply produced heirs Isabella was a strong and powerful woman who history hasn’t treated well, I was glad to see Weir address the balance.  Don’t get me wrong she wasn’t an angel by any stretch of the imagination, but the well-known parts of her story which would grace the page of any tabloid newspaper had she lived in these times are put in the wider context of her life and the world in which she lived.  The book starts with Edward I still on the throne and so the background is all laid out before you a most concise and excellent biography, highly recommended if you like this kind of thing, I will be revisiting it and buying a copy in good old paper and ink.

Traitors of the Tower by Alison Weir, is a collection telling the stories of how seven traitors between 1483 and 1601 came to live and die in the Tower of London; 1483 Lord Hastings, Anne Boleyn 1536, Margaret Pole 1541, Katherine Howard 1542, Jane Parker 1542, Lady Jane Grey 1554 and Robert Devereux 1601.  A great little book to dip into and act as an aide-memoire.

The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir in this book Weir concentrates on the fall of Anne Boleyn possibly Henry VIII’s most imfamous wife, the second.  Being reminded to Anne when listening to Gregory’s books and then again when listening to Traitors of the Tower when I saw this one I thought it would be a good time to iron out those tangled webs of fact and fiction.  Ann was a strong but manipulated woman and this portrait is drawn in a well researched and very informative manner.

The Captive Queen by Alison Weir.  Weir doesn’t only do history well, she also converts it into fiction with aplomb.  I have previously mentioned her biography Eleanor of Aquitaine By the Wrath of God, Queen of England on my blog, it was a book I throughly enjoyed so when I spied that Weir now had a novel on the same subject and fancied some lighter reading/listening I grab this one.  After I had downloaded it I thought, that was maybe a bit silly same author same story just a different format, but it wasn’t!  For here Weir takes the facts adds a sprinkling of imagination deeply rooted in her wealth of historical knowledge of the time and people and presents a jolly good read, although serious history it most certainly isn’t.


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