Interview with Amy Licence

Recently I reviewed Amy Licence book “Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a trueAmy love story”, and now I have had the pleasure of asking her a few questions

 How did your interest in history start?

I don’t really remember a time before I was interested in history. It came from reading and visiting old castles with my parents. I do recall a book I got out of the library when I was about 5 or 6, about cavemen, and being so frustrated when I finished reading it, wanting to go back to the library and get another but the library was closed. By the time I was 14, I’d read all their Tudor books.

AmyAt what point did you realise it was primarily the women’s stories you wanted to highlight?

I’ve always been interested in looking at the women’s side of things; I remember reading biographies of men and spotting these fascinating figures in the margins and thinking that their stories deserved to be told in their own right. There were occasions too, when I thought some historians were unfair to women and I refused to accept their portrayals and interpretations of female motivation and actions. I think the salient moment, though, was when I became a mother, and began to see a discrepancy between my own experience and the way certain books portrayed and valued it. Then, I found that researching childbirth in the past opened up all sorts of other questions about gender relations that I wanted to pursue.

How important is history to C21st people and do you personally feel that lack of In bedknowledge influences the modern man?

I think history is important in ways that aren’t obvious. It’s important to learn about the past, so we can see the present in context and there’s always the old adage about us being doomed to repeat the past, but I think the lessons we learn are more subtle than that. Studying historical figures, particularly weighing conflicting sources and assessing bias, constantly reminds me there are more than one way of looking at something, that no one person is entirely “this” or “that.” When I’m trying to piece together the experience of someone living five centuries ago, at the remove of time and cultural distance, it makes me understand how difficult it is to interpret people from the outside and how they must be assessed within the mores of their own beliefs. This is so relevant to today, when we interact with people from different generations, countries and religions; these historical lessons are transferrable across other boundaries. This is the most valuable knowledge that comes from my work, studying the lives of people in the past.

sixWhat determines who you will be writing about when you prepare for a new book?

It’s a negotiation. Sometimes my publisher has something specific in mind they’d like me to do and sometimes I’m keen, or I might say that individual doesn’t particularly interest me. On other occasions, there will be something that I’m burning to write about and, so long as I submit a valid proposal, I’m lucky that my publisher usually agrees. Quite often an idea comes to me while writing a previous book and I want to follow that through but it demands a book of its own.

What will you be working on next?

I’m working on a biography of Catherine of Aragon for Amberley Publishing, as I want All about Richard IIIto set her in the context of a Renaissance, Humanist queen, not just a wife who failed to produce sons. I’m also continuing to write children’s books for MadeGlobal; my book on Henry VIII will be coming out with them soon.

 

Amy Licence is a historian, journalist and teacher who to date has published 10, soon to be 11, books on the history of late 15th and early 16th century, focusing on women´s history.

Published books: In Bed with the Tudors (2012), Elizabeth of York – the forgotten Tudor Queen (2013), Anne Neville – Richard III´s Tragic Queen (2013), Royal babies 1066-2013 (2013), Richard III: The Road to Leicester (2014), Cecily Neville – Mother of Kings (2014), The six wives and many mistresses of Henry VIII – the women´s stories (2014), Living in Squares, Loving in Triangles – The lives and loves of Virginia Wolf and the Blomsbury Group (2015), Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a true love story (2016), Red Roses – Blanch of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort (2016).

Amy Licence is also working on a book series for children; “All about..” featuring Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII

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My lady, the King´s Mother

Less than a week after her grandson Henry VIII had been crowned, and the day after his 18th birthday, the true founder of theLady_Margaret_Beaufort_from_NPG Tudor dynasty gave up her last breath. Having outlived her only son and three husbands, Margaret Beaufort died on June 29th 1509 at the deanery of Westminster Abbey.

Having lived through the turbulent period of the Wars of the Roses and seen the wheel of her fortune take it´s turn for both the better and for the worst, she went to her death as a woman who had been caring and loving to those close to her, and also prepared to help those who needed, being said to at any given time having had at least 12 poor people living with her, whom she provided with food, clothes and housing.

She has been accused by modern writers for being scheming and conniving, but she was a tough survivor when times demanded that of her, and she has even been accused of being the orchestrator behind the presumed death of the princes in the Tower, which, according to me is simply ridiculous, not least as she at the time was placed under house arrest, and someone else obviously ”had the key to the door.”

When Margaret died, members of her household as well as her friend and chaplain John Fisher who decades later would be executed surrounded her on the order of her grandson.

Margaret Beaufort was laid to rest in a tomb at Westminster Abbey

Source: Margaret Beaufort-Mother of the Tudor Dynasty – Elizabeth Norton

John Fisher

Time, or rather lack of it, hasn´t quite allowed me to blog as I want to lately, and I´m looking forward to my upcoming John_Fisher_(painting)vaccation which I hope will change that situation.

Even so, I want to post a short note to commemorate John Fisher, who was executed on this day in 1535 for refusing to recognise Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

John Fisher was born in Yorkshire in 1469 in Yorkshire as one of four children of the merchant Robert Fisher and his wife Agnes.

John Fisher studied at the University of Cambridge in the 1480´s, where he earned both a Bachelor´s degree and a Master´s degree in arts. He was ordanined priest in 1491.

He went on not only become  the Bishop of Rochford, but also came to play an important role in the life of Margaret Beaufort, whose chaplain and good friend he came to be during the last years of her life, and after her passing he gave a ceremon  in which he complemented her on her many qualities that often has come to be ignored in the accounts of her in the 21st Century. Under his supervision and support, Margaret Beaufort founded both the St John´s and Christ´s College at Cambridge, and he was by her side when she was dying.

He also convinced the scholar Erasmus to come and visit the University of Cambridge.

Towards the forced end of his life, he also ended up on the wrong side of Henry VIII by becoming a staunch supporter of Katherine of Aragon during the Great Matter.

After, in 1534, Fisher refused to take the oath recognising Henry VIII as Supreme Head, he was brought to the Tower, which he was to remain for a year, during which he wrote to Thomas Cromwell to bring to attention the harsh conditions under which he was kept. While his friends was allowed to send him food and drink, he was refused a priest even to the very end.

He was executed on Tower Hill on this day, one of several men who would in the end lose their lives for refusing to take said oath. At first he was thrown on an unmarked grave after having been left on the scaffold for the entire day, but was two weeks later moved to St Peter ad Vincula

He was, together with Thomas More who was executed only weeks later, canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI. His day of celebration is today, the same days as that of Thomas More.

 

Sources:

Margaret Beaufort-Mother of the Tudor dynasty – Elizabeth Norton

St John Fisher – Leonard Foley

 

 

 

Joan – The Fair Maiden of Kent

We may not realise it, as history is to a very large extent dedicated to men, their lives and their deeds, but the very samejoan history is full of strong, fascinating women whose acquaintance is well worth making.

One of these women is Joan of Kent, the wife of Edward the Black Prince in my previous post.

She was born in 1328 as one of two daughters (she also had two brothers) of Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent and Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell.

Edmund wasn´t just “any” Earl, he was the son of Edward I through his marriage to Margaret of France, and thereby also the half-brother of Edward II, the paternal grandfather of the Black Prince.

Isabella_and_Roger_MortimerEdmund, all though loyal to his brother, found himself – due to Edward II´s favouritism of the Despenser´s – forced into the arms of Isabella and Roger Mortimer in France. Participating in their invasion of England, the deposing of his own half-brother and a later plot against the new monarchy cost him his life in 1330 when his daughter was two years old when he was executed for treason in March.

When Roger Mortimer himself was executed later the same year, one of the charges was procuring Edmund´s death, and all charges against Edmund himself was lifted.

But now back to his precocious daughter Joan, later to be known as The Fair Maiden of Kent. She seemed to have known what she wanted already early on in life, and at the age of 12 she secretly married Thomas Holland of Upholland, Lancashire, who was around 14 years older than herself. Not only did Joan not bother to seek royal consent, which was required for a noblewoman, not least as she was of royal blood herself, it seems she didn´t bother to seek the consent of her immediate family either.

This resulted in, when Thomas Holland shortly after their marriage was sent on a military expedition part of the ongoing Hundred Years War, her family demanded Joan to contract another, in their eyes more suiting, marriage this Joan_of_Kenttime to William Montague, 2nd Earl of Salisbury who was born the same year as Joan.

Apparently Joan did not say anything of her already existing marriage, and she would later state that it was due to fear that Thomas Holland would be executed for treason upon his return to England. When he returned he however appealed to the Pope who in time annulled Joan´s current marriage by the time she was 21 and allowed to return to the husband she had apparently chosen herself.

Joan of Kent and Thomas Holland went on to have four children before Thomas died 11 years after their reunion, and through one of her sons Thomas Holland´s daughter Margaret Holland, she was the ancestor of Margaret Beaufort ( Margaret Holland was Margaret Beaufort´s paternal grandmother). Other descendants of Joan include Edward IV, Elizabeth of York and Anne Neville.

Edward the Black PrinceBeing a widow, older than the heir apparent, the Black Prince, she was not the choice of daughter in law Edward III and Philippa of Hainault would have made. Just the fact that he didn´t marry until the age of 31 most likely had earned their disapproval. It seems that Joan was already at an early stage the target of the prince´s affection, as he presented her with a silver cup which was a part of his war loot early on in his military career.

Edward the Black Prince and Joan of Kent took place on October 10th 1361. Allegedly they had already married secretly in 1360 but due to the lack – at the time – of a papal dispensation, Edward and Joan were first cousins once removed, there was a risk of the first marriage, in the event it took place, would be declared invalid.

On the king´s request, the Pope however granted the dispensation needed.

The year after the marriage, the Black Prince was invested Prince of Aquitaine, where they would live for nine years. Here Joan of Kent assembled an army to fight of threats while her husband was drawn into war on the side of Pedro of Castile.

Something which is interesting is Joan´s association with the Lollards, the religious and political movement formed in mid-14th century by the theologian John Wyclif. Both in the household of Edward and that of Joan could be found men who were clearly associated with Lollardy. David Green, author of the book “The Black Prince – power in medieval Europe” states that considering Joan´s reputation of extravagance and fame for primarily being beautiful, the association is weird, but to me that´s a slightly sexist remark hinting that when it comes to a beautiful woman, there is not more than what meets the eye.

The Lollards would come even more into prominence during the reign of Richard II, the only surviving child of Joan and Edward (another son, Edward of Angouleme, died at the age of six).

At the end of the 1360´s, the Black Prince´s health had started to decline rapidly, and the small family returned to Wallingford_castle_ruinsEngland. At the age of 48, Joan of Kent became a widow for the second time.

While she would continue to take a part in her son´s life when he the year after Edward´s death, when Edward III died, became king at the age of 10 – she was in the Tower with her son with the rebels of the Peasant´s Rebellion broke through the gates – she chose to spend a large part of her time at her favourite home Wallingford Castle in modern day Oxfordshire where she died in 1385 at the age of 57.

 

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Joan of Kent is not buried beside Edward the Black Prince at Canterbury Cathedral. In accordance with her will, she instead rest at the side of her first husband, Thomas Holland, at Grey Friars in Stamford, Lincolnshire..

The Black Prince had planned to rest in a crypt which had had its roof embossed with the face of Joan of Kent. His request was not however granted.

Sources:

The Black Prince – Power in Medieval Europe – David Green

The Plantagenets, The kings and Queens that made England – Dan Jones

 A History of Britain – Simon Schama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Margaret Tudor – Mother of the Tudor Dynasty by Elizabeth Norton

Non-fiction

margaret bokIf one is interested in the Wars of the Roses/early Tudor era, the chances that one has come across a number of prejudice ideas about Margaret Beaufort; a conniving she-wolf who would do anything to put her son on the throne, a woman who plotted, backstabbed and in some versions also was the one behind the disappearance and presumed murder of the princes in the Tower, all the while being pious on the verge of a fanatic.

In Elizabeth Norton´s book the true Margaret Beaufort, mother and grandmother of the two first Tudor monarchs, peaks through the veils of history and for a while become a woman of flesh and blood, far from her maligned rumour. Here we instead met a woman who is strong in a time when strength was needed to survive, and who, after her first marriage, refused to be the pawn of others but took charge of her own destiny as far as it was possible.
It also becomes clear that far from her cold, nun-like persona of fiction, Margaret Beaufort was a loving woman who cared for those around her, siblings from her mother´s other marriages, stepsons and also the sister of Elizabeth of York, Cecily.

An incident with a thank you-note and a pair of gloves suggest that she also had a kind of sharp sense of humour. While Margaret Beaufort most likely never would have identified with feminism, she certainly is someone to draw inspiration from in determination and feeling of self-worth and she steps out of the shadows as an incredibly fascinating, not “just” woman, but individual of the period.

Then there is of course heart aching story of her struggle for her son. Maybe I, as the mother of a son, is more susceptible than someone without a son – or daughter for that matter – would be, but this actually breaks my heart a little. To endure the separation from a child also demands strength.
If you think you know about Margaret Beaufort, and that knowledge has more in common with the first lines I wrote, than the latter, you need to read this book. If not, I think you should read it anyway.

William Caxton – printer pioneer

William_Caxton_-_The_first_printer_at_WestminsterWhat did Margaret Beaufort and Anthony Woodville have in common, other than starting out as Lancastrians and for different reasons and with different amount of heart in it was forced to accept Yorkist rule?

The answer to that question is their patronage of William Caxton, the man who brought the art of book printing to England and made education and reading accessible to a larger percent of the population.

The date, or even year, of his birth are not quite known, nor is his parentage, but he is believed to have been born sometime around between 1415 and 1426. There are also uncertainties around where he was born, in the book “Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye”- a French novel about courtly romance by Raoul Lefevre who was the chaplain of Philippe III of Burgundy – which Caxton translated and printed, he states that he was born and educated in the Weald of Kent. Oral tradition has him to be both from Hadlow and Tenterden.

The estimation of when he was born is based on an apprenticeship fee being paid in 1438 when the Mercer´s Company recorded his apprenticeship with Robert Large, a wealthy London dealer in luxury goods at the Mercer´s Company and in 1439 Lord Mayor in London.

In the late 1440´s or early 1450´s he was making trips to Bruges and settled there in 1453, where he over the years became prosperous enough to become Governor of English Nation of Merchant Adventurers, for four of the actually 30

years he spent in Bruges. During the period he also entered the household of Margaret of Burgundy, sister of Edward IV and Richard III, something that let him travel and it was on one of these journeys he came into contact with the printers in Cologne, which in their turn was inspired with the German printing that had been invented but Johannes Gutenberg at the turn of the 1430´s and 1440´s.

Apparently this appealed immensely to William Caxton, and it doesn´t seem that he wasted much time to put up a press at Bruges, where he printed the earlier mentioned “Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye” which he himself translated. It turned out that this was one may call a success, and in 1476 he was on his way back to England, not only with a printing press in his “back pocket”, but also, most likely, in the company of the Dutchman Wynkyn de Worde (some claim that Caxton didn´t bring de Worde to England until 1481 to be able to counter the growing completion).

Canterbury Tales - Caxton First EditionWilliam Caxton set up his printing press in Westminster Abbey, and the first book to be printed on it was Geoffrey Chaucer´s “Canterbury Tales”, and somehow it´s interesting that in a time when religious books were important, Caxton still chose a secular book to print. Maybe one can assume that that says something about the nature of Caxton himself.

It was also during this time that William Caxton came into contact with Anthony Woodville, Lord Rivers, as he himself Caxton_Showing_the_First_Specimen_of_His_Printing_to_King_Edward_IV_at_the_Almonry,_Westminsterhad translated a book, “Dictes or Sayengings of the Philosophres” – a (before Woodville´s translation) French text translated from Latin and originally in Arabic, written in the 11th century by an Egyptian emir – during a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, and he wanted Caxton to proofread the text. He did and also added an epilogue to the story. This would be the first book printed in England that has both a date and the printer´s colophon which showed the name of the printer and the place it was printed.

It is also likely that Anthony Woodville commissioned William Caxton to print another two books, also based on his own translations; “The Morale Proverbes of Cristyne” in 1478 and “The book named Cordyal” in 1479. As Anthony Woodville was very close to his nephew Edward, it is also likely that it was he who prompted Caxton´s dedication to the prince of “A Boke of the Hoole Lyf of Jason”, 1477. It has also seems that it was actually Anthony Woodville that carried the cost of printing Canterbury Tales.

Caxton_deviceAnthony Woodville became a most likely important and steadfast patron of Caxton´s, and he didn’t take he didn´t take kindly to the fact that this man, who may even have been a friend, was the first victim of Richard´s usurpation of the throne. Less than a month before the Battle of Bosworth he published a part of the so called Winchester manuscript – the oldest surviving version of Thomas Mallory´s Le Morte d´Arthur and the kind of arturian romance appreciated at the time – with his own little twist. In the scribed original there is a section where Arthur has a prophetic dream of a horrendous struggle between a dragon and a bear during his campaign against the Roman emperor. The bear is killed and a ‘phylozopher’* tells Arthur that the dragon represents himself, while the bear ‘betokyns som tyraunte that turmentis thy peple’.

It is here the indignant, maybe grieving and quite possible horrified Caxton sees his chance. In his own printed version of the segment, the bear is replaced by a white boar, a symbolism which can hardly be mistaken. And only weeks later the white boar was indeed killed by the welsh dragon.

With that victory, Caxton also received a new patron. Margaret Beaufort was genuinely interested in learning and Plack, William Caxtoneducation, and both translated books from French to English as well as, in time, founded colleges. When her son had ascended the throne after the battle of Bosworth she started turning her attention to William Caxton and his printing press in the almonery of Westminster Abbey. It was the possibility to bring reading to a wider number of people that awoke her interest, and she was to become one of his leading patrons.

Her support helped him to once again getting the attention in court circles he most likely had enjoyed during the patronage of Anthony Woodville, and the appreciation shows in a dedication from Caxton to Margaret Beaufort in the book “The Hystorye of Kinge Blanchardyne and Queen Englantyne his Wyfe” where he flatter her by calling her the Duchess of Somerset.

William Caxton died in 1491, but Margaret Beaufort continued to hire the services of his worker and successor Wynkyn de Worde who kept the business running for another 40 years.

He is buried in St Margaret´s Chapel and in Poet´s Corner a white stone plaque can be seen with the text “”Near this place William Caxton set up the first printing press in England.”

 

Sources:

Caxton, William – Dictionary of National Biography

Caxton and the first English printed books – Dr Anne Marie D´Arcy, University of Leicester (course material)

Caxton, Woodville and revenge – Dr Anne Marie D´Arcy, University of Leicester (course material)

Chaucer´s Caxton – The British Library

Margaret Beaufort-Mother of the Tudor Dynasty – Elizabeth Norton

William Caxton-a biography – George D. Painter

 

 

*philosopher

The Battle of Tewkesbury

MS_Ghent_-_Battle_of_TewkesburyAfter having been defeated at the Battle of Barnet with the death of Warwick the Kingmaker as a result, the forces of Margaret of Anjou faced the army of Edward IV for the last time on May 4th 1471

She had landed at Weymouth on the very same day as the battle of Barnet and was trying to make her way to Wales by crossing the River Severn. The nearest crossing was at the city of Gloucester, but after receiving a message from Edward IV, the Governor Sir Richard Beauchamp refused to open the city gates to her and her forces. This made them embark on a continued march for another 16 kilometres and they eventually made camp outside Tewkesbury where the Yorkist army finally caught up with them.

As the day broke, Margaret of Anjou sought shelter at a religious house. The Lancastrian armyTewkesbury_abbey numbered 6 000 soldiers and the Yorkist 5 000. Edward IV:s vanguard was led by his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. As it became obvious that the Lancastrians wasn´t able to put up the resistance required, both soldiers and commanders began to flee, many being cut down from behind as they ran, while knights and nobles sought sanctuary at Tewkesbury Abbey.

The_Prince_of_Wales_Brought_Before_Edward_IV_After_The_Battle_of_Tewkesbury_(1811)It was a decisive victory which effectively eradicated any hope the Lancastrians had held of recovering the throne for Henry VI and not least for the Prince of Wales; Edward of Westminster, not least because when the battle was over, the latter was dead.
It is not absolutely clear at which point during the battle the Prince of Wales was killed, some sources claim he was killed in the battle itself, others that he tried to run and was killed during the flight, others still that he was caught and brought to Edward IV, only to be executed.

After the battle, Edward decided to breakBeheading_duke_somerset sanctuary, dragging the hiding men out and executing the commanders, one of which was Edmund Beaufort, and with him the House of Beaufort was basically exterminated, with the exception of Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry. Jasper Tudor, Henry´s uncle and guardian had been present at Tewkesbury but fled to Wales, bringing young Henry with him.

A few days after the battle, Margaret of Anjou surrendered to Edward IV, most likely distraught by the death of her son and in effect, the death of the House of Lancaster. She was brought to London as a prisoner of war and imprisoned in the Tower where her husband Henry VI was already held. The same night Henry VI died in the Tower, most likely murdered either on the orders of Edward himself or his brother Richard of Gloucester.

 

Sources: Bosworth Field & the Wars of the Roses – A.L. Rowse
The Wars of the Roses – Alison Weir
The Road to Bosworth Field – Trevor Royle
Images: Tewkesbury Abbey Interior – David Merrett
The murder of Edward of Westminster – James William Edmund Doyle, 1822-2892
(Engraver: Edmund Evans, 1826-1905)