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“Elizabeth of York” by Amy Licence

When I first heard that there will be a new biography of Elizabeth of York, I was truly ecstatic because I always wanted to learn more about the woman who gave birth to Henry VIII. I enjoyed Amy Licence’s first book, ‘In Bed With the Tudors’ and I was really happy to receive Amy Licence’s newest book from Amberley Publishing.

Elizabeth of York was a daughter of Elizabeth Woodville, the first-born English queen consort. While her mother was perceived as a social-climber and was unpopular among her contemporaries, Elizabeth of York was less controversial. She was humble and beloved by people because she endured many tribulations during her life. She was born a royal princess but when her father died she was deemed a bastard. As a teenager she fled to sanctuary with her mother and sisters and when she finally emerged from seclusion in 1484, she found herself being admired by her own uncle, Richard III (or at least this is what the contemporary rumours were saying). She was also the sister of two Princes in the Tower whose fate remains unknown. When Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth, Elizabeth married Henry Tudor and became a mother of the new dynasty.

This book is a fascinating glimpse into the life of Elizabeth of York. Amy Licence combed obscure sources for hitherto unknown insights and has written them into a cohesive history. The daily reality of Elizabeth of York is portrayed very well: everything is described so vividly that I could almost see what Elizabeth saw and heard, tasted, smelt. I learned a great deal of interesting details from this queen’s life. Who knew that she was involved in designing the royal gardens or that she gave money in return for presents of apples and oranges? My favourite part of the book was chapter entitled ‘A Year in the Life, 1502-3′ where Elizabeth’s expenses are outlined and discussed. What a great insight into her life! Plus I really loved the selection of pictures for this book.

Amy Licence is an historian of women’s lives in the medieval and early modern period and it really shows in the way she has dealt with her subject. She was very enthusiastic and sympathetic towards Elizabeth of York and managed to bring Elizabeth back to life, showing us the world the first Tudor queen consort lived in. What I really enjoyed about this book is that it tells you the story of a Elizabeth from a completely different angle: there are so many interesting details from every-day life at court and from the history of women, that it is really hard to put this book down. Amy Licence’s books are like a breath of fresh air, and I am definitely going to read everything and anything from this author. I highly recommended this book for all Tudor enthusiasts.

Thank you for a great read, Amberley Publishing!

The books I’ve recently read

Today I would like to bring two books to your attention: “Jane Seymour” and “Henry VIII” by David Loades. Both books were sent to me by the wonderful staff at Amberley Publishing. Thank you for the great read!


Jane Seymour is an interesting character because she is remembered chiefly as Henry VIII’s most beloved wife who gave him a son. Considering that Henry’s two previous wives were abandoned due to the inability of having a male child, Jane is the one who succeeded where her predecessors (and successors) have failed. Unfortunately, Jane Seymour died shortly after the birth and we don’t know if she would have become more powerful or decisive had she survived.

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Why was Anne Boleyn buried in an arrow chest?

Anne Boleyn's resting place

Anne Boleyn was executed on 19 May 1536. Although the executioner from Calais was ordered even before she was tried and found guilty, no one took care of a proper burial for Anne Boleyn. After she was decapitated with a French sword, her distressed ladies wrapped the late queen’s head and body into a cloth and buried her in an arrow chest within the walls of St. Peter Ad Vincula chapel.

But why was Anne Boleyn buried in an arrow chest?

During her time as Henry VIII fiancée, Anne Boleyn was showered with magnificent gifts. As Retha M. Warnicke wrote in her book:

“Throughout 1530 Henry continued to purchase gifts for her, often for her amusement, as, for example, a shaft, bows, arrows and a shooting glove in May. Archery was a sport she seems to have especially enjoyed, since additional bows were obtained for her. “(p. 96)

Henry VIII loved hunting and Anne Boleyn shared his passion. But Henry loved hunting also in a symbolic meaning – he loved to chase the ladies of the court. And he chased Anne Boleyn for almost a year before she finally surrendered, and agreed to become his wife. For the whole year the king was “stricken with the dart of love”.

Henry’s love for Anne Boleyn caused him many frustrations.  He was consumed with passion that was fuelled with Anne’s refusal.  He wanted her and no other woman. But she was playing him to her own advantage, or perhaps she hoped that the king will soon forget about her and find a new mistress. In any case, even when Anne withdrew herself from the court life, the king was eager to have her. In one of his letters he wrote:

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Anne Boleyn – the Glass of Fashion

“She was unrivalled in the gracefulness of her attire, and the fertility of her invention in devising new patterns, which were imitated by all the court belles, by whom she was regarded as the glass of fashion” / Nicolas Sander “The Rise and Growth of Anglican Schism”/

Although Nicolas Sander is the author of many myths about Anne Boleyn, he certainly was right when he described Anne Boleyn’s immaculate taste for fashion. Anne Boleyn  had olive skin and ‘black eyes’ – features not so popular in 16th century England where pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes were the most desirable traits in a woman.

Nicolas Sander, who was no contemporary witness of Anne’s life at court, wrote that she had many deformations like projecting tooth, six fingers on right hand and a large wen under her chin. But the next sentences are describing Anne as;

“(…) handsome to look at, with a pretty mouth, amusing in her ways, playing well on the lute, and was a good dancer. She was the model and the mirror of those who were at court, for she was always -well dressed, and every day made some change in the fashion of her garments.” (Nicolas Sander “The Rise and Growth of Anglican Schism” p. 25).

Although for centuries historians are echoing the statement of Agnes Strickland that:

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