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The Forgotten Tudor Women: Margaret Douglas, Mary Howard & Mary Shelton

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Everyone knows that Henry VIII had six wives, two sisters and two daughters. All of these women received attention in academic circles and are the subjects of countless biographies. Not many people, however, realize that Henry VIII also had a niece, a daughter-in-law and a mistress, who were close friends, but who today remain on the fringes of history. Margaret Douglas w Everyone knows that Henry VIII had six wives, two sisters and two daughters. All of these women received attention in academic circles and are the subjects of countless biographies. Not many people, however, realize that Henry VIII also had a niece, a daughter-in-law and a mistress, who were close friends, but who today remain on the fringes of history. Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Henry VIII’s elder sister Margaret, Queen of Scotland. She was imprisoned thrice, and each time, as she admitted, “not for matters of treason, but for love matters”. Her legacy includes marrying her son to Mary, Queen of Scots, and playing the doting grandmother to King James VI and I. Mary Howard was the daughter of Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk, leading peer of the Tudor court. She served as maid of honour to her first cousin, Anne Boleyn, and married Henry VIII’s illegitimate but acknowledged son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond. Widowed at the age of seventeen, Mary fought for her rightful jointure and was, by her father’s admission, “too wise for a woman”. Mary Shelton, like Mary Howard, was related to Anne Boleyn and became her servant at court. Beautiful and skilled in poetry, Mary attracted Henry VIII’s attention and became his mistress in 1535, but many don’t realize how important her contributions were to the literary scene of the time. This book moves Margaret Douglas, Mary Howard and Mary Shelton from the footnotes of history into the spotlight, where they deserve to shine along with their more famous contemporaries.


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Everyone knows that Henry VIII had six wives, two sisters and two daughters. All of these women received attention in academic circles and are the subjects of countless biographies. Not many people, however, realize that Henry VIII also had a niece, a daughter-in-law and a mistress, who were close friends, but who today remain on the fringes of history. Margaret Douglas w Everyone knows that Henry VIII had six wives, two sisters and two daughters. All of these women received attention in academic circles and are the subjects of countless biographies. Not many people, however, realize that Henry VIII also had a niece, a daughter-in-law and a mistress, who were close friends, but who today remain on the fringes of history. Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Henry VIII’s elder sister Margaret, Queen of Scotland. She was imprisoned thrice, and each time, as she admitted, “not for matters of treason, but for love matters”. Her legacy includes marrying her son to Mary, Queen of Scots, and playing the doting grandmother to King James VI and I. Mary Howard was the daughter of Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk, leading peer of the Tudor court. She served as maid of honour to her first cousin, Anne Boleyn, and married Henry VIII’s illegitimate but acknowledged son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond. Widowed at the age of seventeen, Mary fought for her rightful jointure and was, by her father’s admission, “too wise for a woman”. Mary Shelton, like Mary Howard, was related to Anne Boleyn and became her servant at court. Beautiful and skilled in poetry, Mary attracted Henry VIII’s attention and became his mistress in 1535, but many don’t realize how important her contributions were to the literary scene of the time. This book moves Margaret Douglas, Mary Howard and Mary Shelton from the footnotes of history into the spotlight, where they deserve to shine along with their more famous contemporaries.

30 review for The Forgotten Tudor Women: Margaret Douglas, Mary Howard & Mary Shelton

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    I am a person who will read whatever I can about the fascinating Tudor period in England's history. The pomp, the circumstance, the royalty, the backstabbing, the peril, daily life - all of it fascinates me. I was thrilled to find this book about the women behind the scenes - the ones who held positions in court serving the Queen and other women born (or married into) royalty. Their lives and livelihood depend on their ability to serve and all that entails with regard to knowing when to bow, how I am a person who will read whatever I can about the fascinating Tudor period in England's history. The pomp, the circumstance, the royalty, the backstabbing, the peril, daily life - all of it fascinates me. I was thrilled to find this book about the women behind the scenes - the ones who held positions in court serving the Queen and other women born (or married into) royalty. Their lives and livelihood depend on their ability to serve and all that entails with regard to knowing when to bow, how low to bow, keeping confidences, making sure never to utter a word that can be taken as treason, and devoting every single moment to the whims and requirements of the women they served. To be given a post in court was an incredible honor, and one that was also treacherous. More than a few found themselves thrown out in dishonor, accused by jealous "friends" of committing crimes against the King or Queen, and more than one was executed for treason, whether proven or not. Many more found themselves imprisoned in the famous tower. However, also among these chosen few, were some who enjoyed lifelong friendships for those they served, and some began serving when quite young. The book was well researched and well written. It is hard to keep some of the people straight, as many had the same first names and were sometimes also known by other names if the King or Queen desired to reward them with an "up" in their status. If you aren't well versed in Tudor history, take a moment to remind yourself of the succession of throne in that period, mainly from Henry VI on through to Queen Elizabeth, the last of the Tudors to reign.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    Holy Cow I am so glad I wasn't a Tudor. People got chucked in the tower and beheaded for allowing their kids to get married without the crown's permission. Am a fully convinced that from Henry VIII on they were loony. This tells the stories of 3 women of the Tudor court who managed to die of natural causes. Vocab disport - enjoy oneself unrestrainedly; frolic naissance - the birth or origination of something or somebody chrisom - a white robe put on a child at baptism. medicaments - a substance used Holy Cow I am so glad I wasn't a Tudor. People got chucked in the tower and beheaded for allowing their kids to get married without the crown's permission. Am a fully convinced that from Henry VIII on they were loony. This tells the stories of 3 women of the Tudor court who managed to die of natural causes. Vocab disport - enjoy oneself unrestrainedly; frolic naissance - the birth or origination of something or somebody chrisom - a white robe put on a child at baptism. medicaments - a substance used for medical treatment.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Juliew.

    This was a fun little book and I loved the idea of telling the life stories of some of the more overlooked women of Henry VIII's court.Although,the organization was slightly odd starting with Margaret Douglas story and abruptly switching to Mary Howard and Mary Shelton and then going back to Margaret at the end.I liked that the author clearly noted her sources at the end of each chapter and that the writing was concise which is a nice change sometimes from more descriptive writing.As for the res This was a fun little book and I loved the idea of telling the life stories of some of the more overlooked women of Henry VIII's court.Although,the organization was slightly odd starting with Margaret Douglas story and abruptly switching to Mary Howard and Mary Shelton and then going back to Margaret at the end.I liked that the author clearly noted her sources at the end of each chapter and that the writing was concise which is a nice change sometimes from more descriptive writing.As for the research I liked that first hand sources were used but found that the author tended to use secondary sources with no research of her own.Overall though enjoyable read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    "Mary Howard's presence was not recorded either at the christening of the prince or at the Queen's funeral" - and that's probably because, as much as the author would like Howard to be constantly at the centre of the Tudor court, much of the time she simply wasn't, and this serves as an example of the negative information that fills out some of this book: the places where these women are not. Overall, this is a brisk and fairly superficial romp through the lives of Mary Howard, Mary Shelton and "Mary Howard's presence was not recorded either at the christening of the prince or at the Queen's funeral" - and that's probably because, as much as the author would like Howard to be constantly at the centre of the Tudor court, much of the time she simply wasn't, and this serves as an example of the negative information that fills out some of this book: the places where these women are not. Overall, this is a brisk and fairly superficial romp through the lives of Mary Howard, Mary Shelton and Margaret Douglas - hardly "forgotten" women any of them (Howard was first cousin to both Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, amongst other important Howard relatives; Shelton was another Boleyn cousin and mistress to Henry VIII; Douglas was niece to Henry VIII, mother-in-law to Mary Queen of Scots). Much of the first half of the book is taken up with re-telling (again...) the story of Anne Boleyn; the second half is better though, again, there's nothing new here. Soberton basically summarises from other people's books and hasn't done any original or archival research of her own. Good if you want a brisk, unnuanced and straightforward compilation of the facts of these women's lives: 2.5 stars rounded up.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Carole P. Roman

    Sylvia Barbara Soberton has written an interesting history about three women who graced the Tudor court and very often get lost in the shuffle. Margaret Douglas, Henry's niece is the product of her mother's marriage to a Scottish lord and the ancestor to today's ruling family. Margaret, Henry's sister is married off to the Scot's King when she was barely a woman and is shipped off to cement a northern alliance for the Tudor family. When her husband dies, she makes an illegal marriage to one of h Sylvia Barbara Soberton has written an interesting history about three women who graced the Tudor court and very often get lost in the shuffle. Margaret Douglas, Henry's niece is the product of her mother's marriage to a Scottish lord and the ancestor to today's ruling family. Margaret, Henry's sister is married off to the Scot's King when she was barely a woman and is shipped off to cement a northern alliance for the Tudor family. When her husband dies, she makes an illegal marriage to one of his earls and enters into a fiery union that produces her daughter Margaret. Margaret's life is the mother of all custody battles and she is used as a pawn in both countries. Henry needs her as he arbitrarily legitimizes and then illegitimizes his daughters. Her life is hijacked by the court and her poignant story is deeply detailed.She ends up with the Earl of Lenox, and when her son marries Mary Queen of Scots, her niece, the tangled family tapestry molds to make her the ancestor of the current Queen's family. Mary Howard is the widow of Henry's illegitimate son, who's life seems to derail with his death and she spends the rest of it seeking to find a place for herself. She remained the ""poorest widow of the land" for the rest of her life. Mary Shelton, the shadowy cousin of Ann Boleyn is given as much substance as the meager records allow. This was an interesting slice of life of the peripheral players of the Tudor court.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    A very interesting take on other women in the Tudor dynasty. With all the marriages, the list of who is related to which powerful faction in the Tudor court gets a bit complicated. A fascinating look at women who did not let themselves be pawns in the marriage games.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    Bravo, Bravo !!! Well researched information on the Tudor Women, their family lineages, and how they fit into history. Some rather dry historical facts, nicely woven into an easy to read, entertaining book. I quite enjoyed this.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn Boyle-Taylor

    I read the print, not the Kindle edition. This is pretty well done, all taken into consideration. It seems to have been self-published, and may well be a dissertation worked up into book format. There were some misspellings and typos, but nothing too disastrous. The flow of the narrative is relatively clear, and the research done on her topics is thorough. This gives additional background to those that are interested in this time period, and each of the three "forgotten women" comes through as a I read the print, not the Kindle edition. This is pretty well done, all taken into consideration. It seems to have been self-published, and may well be a dissertation worked up into book format. There were some misspellings and typos, but nothing too disastrous. The flow of the narrative is relatively clear, and the research done on her topics is thorough. This gives additional background to those that are interested in this time period, and each of the three "forgotten women" comes through as an individual, although the three of them were friends during certain times of their lives. I'd dfinitely recommend it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sally Semaine

    A bit pushed towards the end but good This was a great alternative to the usual historical reflections - well written, taking in many points of view and without the 'one-upmanship' that many books of this type seem to end up being. My only criticism, and this may well be downfall rather than the author's, is that by the end I was finding it difficult to keep track of 'who was who' through the generations. Still liked it though and well worth a go. A bit pushed towards the end but good This was a great alternative to the usual historical reflections - well written, taking in many points of view and without the 'one-upmanship' that many books of this type seem to end up being. My only criticism, and this may well be downfall rather than the author's, is that by the end I was finding it difficult to keep track of 'who was who' through the generations. Still liked it though and well worth a go.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Patti

    For English her- story buffs Though the names did indeed tend to get tangled, this is a well written and annotated work on the other Marys in the Tudor age. All of the political scheming and maneuvering of the time seems to have come as natural as breathing to all and sundry. Never knowing from one moment to the next whether you were a cherished friend/relative or a Tower inmate must have made for some crazy times. All in all, a good read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I enjoyed a lot of it and the rest was fine. It did not flow really well Mary Howard's part of it really got down in the weeds; my feeling is that could have been shortened, especially all the places she was not or did not do something. I do enjoy Soberton's work but Great Ladies was a more enjoyable read. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I enjoyed a lot of it and the rest was fine. It did not flow really well Mary Howard's part of it really got down in the weeds; my feeling is that could have been shortened, especially all the places she was not or did not do something. I do enjoy Soberton's work but Great Ladies was a more enjoyable read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Glenn

    Hard to follow I would recommend this book to academia s, scholars and researchers. It s hard to differentiate between the three Mary's, hard to identify why they are unique from one another. Their lives seem to be reflective of the time in which they lived. Hard to follow I would recommend this book to academia s, scholars and researchers. It s hard to differentiate between the three Mary's, hard to identify why they are unique from one another. Their lives seem to be reflective of the time in which they lived.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Holly Hendrickson-Davis

    Secrets and subterfuge Gives the reader an understanding of the manipulation and schemes people used to influence events. This Tudor era was a difficult time to live and try to survive.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mrs L.A. Bailey

    Disappointed I settled into this book with real enthusiasm. It is superbly researched, engaging to read....And very, very short. Resembling a decent academic assignment more than a book, I am afraid I felt rather short-term changed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Beth Woods

    It's always interesting to hear about the people history 'forgot'; these three women are influential and important but not often discussed. However, this book doesn't really seem to focus much on them - particularly in the case of Mary Howard it seemed more focused on how closely related to Anne Boleyn she was. I felt Shelton's story was very quickly skimmed over, while Margaret's again was more about her descendants than her own life. It's a good book for an overview, but it's not very in-depth. It's always interesting to hear about the people history 'forgot'; these three women are influential and important but not often discussed. However, this book doesn't really seem to focus much on them - particularly in the case of Mary Howard it seemed more focused on how closely related to Anne Boleyn she was. I felt Shelton's story was very quickly skimmed over, while Margaret's again was more about her descendants than her own life. It's a good book for an overview, but it's not very in-depth. It only really skims the surface, and it seems to rely heavily on other people's research. Every so often the author declares something as likely to have/have not happened with fairly flakey justification; I'd have liked to see stronger reasoning in these cases. I enjoyed reading about 'other' women of the Tudor court, but felt this book didn't go as far as I'd have liked. It's a very quick read - I finished it in a matter of hours.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paula simpson

    A good read Everything I knew and thought I knew was here but very interesting especially if you like reading about English royal family

  17. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    Learned some new things about the Tudor era

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Forgotten Tudor Women An excellent read from Sylvia Soberton. I thought it would be difficult to read with all the Mary's and Margaret's but it was not the case with this book. Forgotten Tudor Women An excellent read from Sylvia Soberton. I thought it would be difficult to read with all the Mary's and Margaret's but it was not the case with this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Padraig O'Sullivan

    Good Read It was very well done. I was glad to find out more about these Tudor ladies and their connections to Henry VIII

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rosie Lee

    Book 2 is as good as book 1 the Forgotten Tudor Women highly recommended

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    A good book. A new angle on a much written about period that continues to fascinate us. And each tiny bit new detail helps to build a picture of the whole. Like everyone else and certainly like everyone who wants to read this book I was fairly up on the Tudors but I can get confused easily. I found it helpful to draw up a family tree for two of these women, Margaret Douglas and Mary Howard and I referred to it throughout. The third subject of the book was Mary Shelton, mistress of Henry V111 and A good book. A new angle on a much written about period that continues to fascinate us. And each tiny bit new detail helps to build a picture of the whole. Like everyone else and certainly like everyone who wants to read this book I was fairly up on the Tudors but I can get confused easily. I found it helpful to draw up a family tree for two of these women, Margaret Douglas and Mary Howard and I referred to it throughout. The third subject of the book was Mary Shelton, mistress of Henry V111 and she wasn't caught up in the Tudor family network in the way that a family tree could throw light on. Tudor England was a small place and all these players were related and known to one another. They married one another, plotted against one another, imprisoned and executed one another and sometimes forgave one another. (How on earth did Elizabeth 1 and Mary Queen of Scots never meet when everyone else was bumping into one another at every turn of the road. Distance I suppose.) Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, Henry V111's older sister. She was the king's niece and cousin of the next three Tudor monarchs Edward V1, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth 1 and she was grandmother to James V1 of Scotland and 1 of England. Mary Howard married Henry Fitzroy, acknowledged son of Henry V111 born out of wedlock. She was one of the powerful Howard family, powerful yet often vulnerable in these times and many members of her family lost their lives to the Tudor executioner's block, Ann Boleyn and Katherine Howard amongst them. These three women are in pivotal positions in Tudor politics but Sylvia Barbara Soberton manages to draw out what little personal information we have about them to show them as much as individuals as can be seen. Margaret Douglas outlived all her children, fighting to save her family and the rights of her two precious grandchildren and the husband she loved. Lovely Mary Howard, dead at 35, carefully stepped around the dangerous quicksand of Tudor politics and managed to avoid schemes and plots and a second marriage. Mary Shelton was the daughter of Ann Shelton who was a sister of Thomas Boleyn the father of Ann Boleyn. Ann Shelton was Ann Boleyn's aunt and tutor to Mary Tudor, the king's daughter, and her daughters Mary Shelton and Margaret Shelton were Ann Boleyn's cousins. Ah these Tudor names! So many Anns and Marys and Margarets, Janes, Catherines and Elizabeths. Good to see the beautifully named Arbella Stuart appearing in the next generation, one of the two grandchildren of Margaret Douglas. Beautifully named but tragic but that's for another book. Mary Shelton was a poet and woman of letters. She married Anthony Heveningham. Her great grandson was one of the regicides who signed the document for the execution of Charles 1. Charles 1 was the great grandson of Margaret Douglas. And so their lives continued to entwine generations later.

  22. 5 out of 5

    J.A. Kahn

    This is a very academic work with a great deal of information on these three remarkable women. It is not light reading, being filled with a huge amount of historic analysis and data. What is extraordinary about these women is their strength of character at an age when men (and especially women) were mere pawns in the King's game. How anybody in close contact with the King survived at that time required a great deal of guile and resilience. The author clearly has an enormous respect for these wom This is a very academic work with a great deal of information on these three remarkable women. It is not light reading, being filled with a huge amount of historic analysis and data. What is extraordinary about these women is their strength of character at an age when men (and especially women) were mere pawns in the King's game. How anybody in close contact with the King survived at that time required a great deal of guile and resilience. The author clearly has an enormous respect for these women and their ability to cope.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pam Shelton-Anderson

    I enjoy histories of women, particularly those that are not as prominent. I was especially interested in Mary Shelton, having researched the Shelton of Norfolk family extensively. This was well written, using solid sources and good footnotes. There was a comment that Mary and not her sister Margaret was the mistress of Henry VIII, the latter being the commonly noted Shelton in most histories. She said recent research says it was Mary but other than indicating that Mary was noted at court in this I enjoy histories of women, particularly those that are not as prominent. I was especially interested in Mary Shelton, having researched the Shelton of Norfolk family extensively. This was well written, using solid sources and good footnotes. There was a comment that Mary and not her sister Margaret was the mistress of Henry VIII, the latter being the commonly noted Shelton in most histories. She said recent research says it was Mary but other than indicating that Mary was noted at court in this time frame more than her sister, she does not really make a stronger case for that. I don't disagree with that assessment but would have like to have seen a better argument. In all, this was a well written history and a good read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nicole B

    I gave "The Forgotten Tudor Women" two stars because I really did feel it was "just OK". It read like a senior thesis or dissertation; the book was mostly long quotes from letters with little commentary or analysis. I was most disappointed in that the biographies were brief and very superficial. Both Marys shouldn't have been included - so little is known about Mary Shelton that she barely figures in the book at all, and most of Mary Howard's story was overshadowed by her mother and brother. Whi I gave "The Forgotten Tudor Women" two stars because I really did feel it was "just OK". It read like a senior thesis or dissertation; the book was mostly long quotes from letters with little commentary or analysis. I was most disappointed in that the biographies were brief and very superficial. Both Marys shouldn't have been included - so little is known about Mary Shelton that she barely figures in the book at all, and most of Mary Howard's story was overshadowed by her mother and brother. While I think the history of lesser-known historical figures can be important, 2/3 of these ladies are "forgotten" for a reason - at the end of the day, they just weren't as influential as the author seems to think.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cerisa Reynolds

    This is a well written, quick read about three very important and fascinating women. The book's description should be taken into account, as the author seems to assume that her readers do actually already know a lot about the Tudors. Be warned that if you are not already well versed in the history of this time, the significance of certain people and encounters will be lost on you, as the author provides little detail to fill the reader in. The more knowledgable you are on the era, the more you'l This is a well written, quick read about three very important and fascinating women. The book's description should be taken into account, as the author seems to assume that her readers do actually already know a lot about the Tudors. Be warned that if you are not already well versed in the history of this time, the significance of certain people and encounters will be lost on you, as the author provides little detail to fill the reader in. The more knowledgable you are on the era, the more you'll be able to gain from this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    I enjoyed this glimpse into the intertwining lives of these three ladies of court. The author doesn't have a great deal of material to work with as the historical records are scant on detail. All three ladies were contributors of The Devonshire Manuscript. Still I agree with her summation that these lives are "deserving of remembrance." This book has stimulated my interest in further Tudor reading. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading and learning more about the nobility of the Tu I enjoyed this glimpse into the intertwining lives of these three ladies of court. The author doesn't have a great deal of material to work with as the historical records are scant on detail. All three ladies were contributors of The Devonshire Manuscript. Still I agree with her summation that these lives are "deserving of remembrance." This book has stimulated my interest in further Tudor reading. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading and learning more about the nobility of the Tudor Court. It's a quick read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    HalKid2

    When I purchased this book, I thought it was historical fiction. It isn't. So I set myself up for disappointment. What I wound up with is a very well-researched non-fiction book about three lesser known Tudor women (Margaret Douglas - daughter of Henry VIII's sister Margaret, Mary Howard - daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, and Mary Shelton - first cousin of Queen Anne Boleyn on her father's side). Though I've read a lot about this period, I did learn new information. But the entire time, I felt l When I purchased this book, I thought it was historical fiction. It isn't. So I set myself up for disappointment. What I wound up with is a very well-researched non-fiction book about three lesser known Tudor women (Margaret Douglas - daughter of Henry VIII's sister Margaret, Mary Howard - daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, and Mary Shelton - first cousin of Queen Anne Boleyn on her father's side). Though I've read a lot about this period, I did learn new information. But the entire time, I felt like I was reading a high school or college term paper and it just wasn't very interesting.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    This is a great book about the lesser known Tudor women in the times of Henry VIII and onto Edward, Jane Grey, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth. These women may be lesser known to us but they were there working in the court, shaping history. Very well researched, fascinating book. I read a lot about the Tudors so its unusual for me to find new facts I haven't heard before, but got a lot from this book! A really good read. Highly recommended. This is a great book about the lesser known Tudor women in the times of Henry VIII and onto Edward, Jane Grey, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth. These women may be lesser known to us but they were there working in the court, shaping history. Very well researched, fascinating book. I read a lot about the Tudors so its unusual for me to find new facts I haven't heard before, but got a lot from this book! A really good read. Highly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    While I think Margaret Douglas has more information given about her due to her numerous royal relations, it was good to see a decent account of the lives of Mary Howard and Mary Shelton. Soberton gives details of the lives they were born into, times at court, and traces, as well as history provides, into their lives after they left court.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    For the Tudor fan This well researched and written book is for those well acquainted with the events of the times as the author takes it as read with only glancing address to the major figures of Tudor England. For those who are well versed in this period this in-depth review of the often overlooked daughters and wives of history brings new life to history.

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