“Her person alone was worth a kingdom”: The first wedding dress of Mary, Queen of Scots

“All I can tell you is that I account myself one of the happiest women in the world” – Mary, Queen of Scots to her mother on the morning of her wedding. I haven’t had all that much time for blogging this year, what with trying to finish my second full-length novel for Harper Impulse […]

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[Guest Post] Anne Boleyn: “Loved not a little” – Lily Fox

Time marches on. Even ten, twenty years ago seems an inexplicably long time away, an ancient era before Whatsapp, Harry Potter, selfies and One Direction. The Tudor period is practically another world, a fantasy time of knights and castles that belongs more to a Game of Thrones episode than real life. A lot of things […]

The original Queen of Hearts

The deck of cards was probably introduced to England in the late 14th century, immediately rivalling the popularity of old games of chance like dice. Whilst playing cards were absolutely nothing new – the ancient Egyptians used to play them – the standardised ‘suits’ of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs that we’d recognise today was adopted […]

“There is written, her fair neck round about”: The legend of Anne Boleyn’s initial necklaces

To say it’s archetypal isn’t actually doing it justice. It’s flat-out impossible to envision Anne Boleyn without her pearl-and-gold “B” necklace – a fact that filmmakers and book cover designers seem to agree with. Although the fashionable Anne was usually a trend-setter, initial jewellery was already extremely popular at the Tudor court. Henry VIII himself […]

Hidden historical heroines (#33: Mary Grey)

Lady Mary Grey (c.1545 – 20 April 1578) was the youngest daughter of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, and Frances Brandon, herself the daughter of Charles Brandon – great friend and confidante of Henry VIII – and Mary Tudor, his younger sister. An unfortunate figure, Mary was described by an ambassador as ‘little, crook-backed and very ugly’ – it […]

“I like her not!” The dumping of Anne of Cleves

    On this day (9th July) in 1540, the marriage between Henry VIII of England and Anna, the elder Princess of Cleves, was formally and legally annulled. Anne has gone down through history as the one who made the great escape, as well as a lot of other things much less flattering. So today, […]

Hidden historical heroines (#29: Helena von Snakenborg)

Helena von Snakenborg (c.1549 – 10 April 1635) was a Swedish noblewoman who was highly favoured by Elizabeth I. She was taken into Elizabeth’s household and eventually became Marchioness of Northampton by her first marriage, which made her one of the senior peeresses of the realm. Helena was born Elin Ulfsdotter of Fyllingarum, a younger […]

I have come here to die

Today in History: 19th May 1536 – the execution of Anne Boleyn Escorted by Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London, and “four young ladies”, Anne Boleyn made the short walk from the Queen’s Lodgings at the Tower of London, skirting past the Great Hall, through Cole Harbour Gate to reach the western […]

There is no remedy

At some point between her sentencing and execution, tradition holds that Anne Boleyn used her time to write a beautiful, achingly sad poem known as O Death! rock me asleep.  Some believe it was more likely written by her brother, George, who was well-known and respected as a poet during his lifetime. Although it has been […]

The condemnation of the putain

Today in History: 15th May 1536 – the trial of Anne Boleyn On the morning of 15th May 1536, Jane Seymour – affianced to the King of England – busied herself with wedding preparations from her new lodgings in Chelsea. Her predecessor – although not yet quite ‘pre’ enough for Henry’s taste – prepared herself […]