Monday, 8 August 2011

New books, talks & an exhibition

Unfortunately I have to start this post with bad news. As reported yesterday in the Telegraph, hundreds of documents have been ‘mislaid’ in The National Archives. Worse, from our perspective, they include documents relating to the sixteenth-century. The article only comments on the loss of works from the courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, but this may be the usual offhand way of saying Tudor dynasty as a whole (if they put ‘and the court of Mary I’, they are unlikely to elicit the same outrage from the average reader than stating we have lost records from Henry and Elizabeth’s reigns. Sigh). How many documents of Mary’s reign have also been lost is yet to be seen.

On to more pleasant matters; there are several upcoming books of interest. John Edward’s biography of Mary is due out the end of this month (more info here). Several studies of Mary’s kin are in the works. They include:

Patrick Williams, Catherine of Aragon: A Life (Amberley Publishing). Confusingly two dates have been supplied for this – one being the 15th of this month, the other June 2012. This ‘monumental new biography’ claims to be ‘the first to make full use of the Spanish Royal Archives’. Hopefully it will be akin to Eric Ives’s masterly study of Anne Boleyn.

At last we have a full scale study of Mary’s husband’s time as, well, her husband. Harry Kelsey’s Philip of Spain, King of England: The Forgotten Sovereign (I.B. Tauris), is out on 30/11/2011. The synopsis:

‘The Spanish Armada conjures up images of age-old rivalries, bravery and treachery. However the same Spanish monarch who sent the Armada to invade England in 1588 was, just a few years previously, the King of England and husband of Mary Tudor. This important new book sheds new light on Philip II of Spain, England's forgotten sovereign. Previous accounts of Mary's brief reign have focused on the martyrdom of Protestant dissenters, the loss of English territory, as well as Mary's infamous personality, meaning that her husband Philip has remained in the shadows. In this book, Harry Kelsey uncovers Philip's life - from his childhood and education in Spain, to his marriage to Mary and the political manoeuvrings involved in the marriage contract, to the tumultuous aftermath of Mary's death which ultimately led to hostile relations between Queen Elizabeth and Philip, culminating in the Armada. Focusing especially on the period of Philip's marriage to Mary, Kelsey shows that Philip was, in fact, an active King of England and took a keen interest in the rule of his wife's kingdom. Casting fresh light on both Mary and Philip, as well as European history more generally, this book will be essential reading for anyone interested in the Tudor era.’

Kelsey is not the only one to focus on this issue. For some years now Glyn Redworth has been researching Philip’s time as King of England. I’m always checking his Manchester University page to see whether he has a study on this coming out, but as yet no word. Back in late 2009 he mentioned he was writing an account of ‘The Short Reign of King Philip the Brief of England (Philip I, 1554-1558’) –‘Philip the brief’, love it! He is doing a talk on this matter for a conference on prince consorts at the IHR this December. I’m very tempted to attend despite this talk being the only one of interest to me in the whole programme. If you are interested in this conference, the programme and registration details will be confirmed on 1st Sept.

A study of Mary’s aunt and namesake, Mary Tudor (youngest daughter of Henry VII; consort of Louis XII of France and the grandmother of Lady Jane Grey) is currently being written by Jennifer Kewley Draskau. The biography entitled, The Tudor Rose: Princess Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s Sister, will be published by The History Press Ltd in May 2013.

Kelly Hart has got books on two Tudor women connected to Mary out (one due next year). One is on Katherine Brandon, duchess of Suffolk. Despite going into exile during Mary’s reign, the duchess and Mary were on good terms for a number of years (as Mary’s expense records attest; plenty of trips to see the duchess for some serious gambling. Tut tut!). The study will focus on the rather overblown (in my opinion) one-time rumour that Henry VIII considered ditching sixth wife Katherine Parr and making the duchess his next missus. There already exists a superb study of the duchess and her religious affiliations by Melissa Franklin-Harkrider, so I’m not sure this new book will make much of an impact.
Hart’s other biography will be on Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife and Mary’s stepmother. Mary and Jane were of course on good terms, and I imagine the nature of their relationship will be explored fully. Apparently the book is out in March.

The ever productive David Loades has yet another book out soon. This time it is a new overview of the Tudor dynasty. Lets hope his section on Mary pays careful consideration to the works on her reign that have been published in recent years. Loades’s book, The Tudors: History of a Dynasty (Continuum Publishing Corporation) is out in March.

Finally the exhibition, Making History: Antiquaries in Britain, which celebrates the achievements of the Society of Antiquaries of London, will be coming to the US. The exhibition will first be held at the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, from 4 September 2011 to 11 December, then will move to the Yale Centre for British Art from 2 February 2012 to 27 May. Why do I mention this? Well amongst the many fascinating gems on display, is one of the most important and famous portraits of Mary (by Hans Eworth):

So make sure you see it!


  1. Thanks for this list! I thank you, that is; my bank account doesn't.

  2. It never cease to amaze me how commonly unknown are Philip's greatest biographers such as Henry Kamen, Fernando Alvarez and Geoffrey Parker (especially this one, his last bio of Philip is the most detailed study on Philip ever, and it's not even translated in English).

    After all, Philip is such an important character in English History, even if it's for bad reasons. I've been paying attention to the English historiography regarding Philip and I must say that it amazed me how many historians still regard the Black Legend as something more than a Historical subject. I'm glad that some English Historians such as Kelsey and Redworth are taking an interest on Philip but I really don't think it's enough for the general public to get a grasp of how complex Philip and his policies really were.

  3. I'm happy to report that there is currently a PhD student (at the University of Bristol) examining Philip as King of England. I look forward to the findings of his research!