HISTORICAL BOOK REVIEW: ‘Educating the Tudors’ by Amy McElroy

Education during the Tudor era was a privilege and took many forms including schools, colleges and apprenticeships. Those responsible for delivering education came from a variety of backgrounds from the humble parish priest to the most famed poet-laureates of the day. Curriculums varied according to wealth, gender and geography. The wealthy could afford the very best of tutors and could study as much or as little as they chose while the poorer members of society could only grasp at opportunities in the hopes of providing themselves with a better future.

The Tudors were educated during a time when the Renaissance was sweeping across Europe and Henry VIII became known as a Renaissance Prince but what did his education consist of? Who were his tutors? How did his education differ to that of his elder brother, Prince Arthur and how did Henry’s education change upon the death of his brother? There is no doubt Henry was provided with an excellent education, particularly in comparison to his sisters, Margaret and Mary. Henry’s own education would go on to influence his decisions of tutors for his own children. Who had the privilege of teaching Henry’s children and did they dare to use corporal punishment?

Educating the Tudors seeks to answer all of these questions, delving into the education of all classes, the subjects they studied, educational establishment and those who taught them.

Purchase via Pen & Sword here


It can sometimes feel as if education has always been the way we see it now, with full classrooms of desks, 20-30 kids jammed in together to listen to a teacher sigh at the lack of interest in their students. While the Victorian system of schools designed to churn out good factory workers we are still stuck with today seems ever-lasting, the Tudors got to experience a whole different way of learning. So if you hear the title ‘Educating the Tudors’ and wonder if you have anything to learn, I can assure you that you do.

Education in the Tudor period very much depended on your social class (much like today I hear you saying). In Tudor times, the less money you had, didn’t always mean a smaller worldview. The difference here is that if you rose high even in social ranking, the less educated you needed to be, as you could ride that wave of being a member of the landed gentry and never have a job. By the time the first Tudors were taking their first steps, the printing press was well under way creating a world of new possibilites, along with the re-emergence of classic works, and with the explosion of the Reformation in 1517, the world likely felt bigger than ever for anyone able to get an education.

Theis book takes us though what is was like for a king to be educated, like the opportunities of Henry VIII, who could receive a humanist education with new ideas and secular studies alongside the traditional religious learning. Education was not settled in a clasroom either, as outdoor activities ranked just as highly as anything done in lessons. This is a pattern we see right through all Tudor monarchs.

The book doesn’t just dwell on the nobility, taking a reader through the social hierachy. The author can easily see through how class, gender and wealth changed educational needs and wants, how children were taught, and how practical subjects and apprenticeships  meant everything to a large portion of society. How someone grew up to be considered quaified in the Tudor period is vastly different to today, and the book takes us through both the steps taken by students, and how educated people were considered and recognised in their time.

Naturally with the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s, this changed how people educated their children, what they learned, and what was available when King Henry took Cromwell’s reforming ideas and turned it into a chophouse of lost services. This book covers so much, from the basic first writing of a common-born child, through the trivium and quadrivium, to the books of  kings and queens, and everyone in between, showing readers a totally different world of education.

I wish I had read this book six months earlier than I did, I would have been able to use what I learned and credited the author in my next book, since this book certainly beats anything else on the topic. The book also covers great teachers of the period such as John Palsgrave, Giles Duwes, Roger Ascham, Bernard Andre, and Desiderius Erasmus. This book may be a first from the author, but I hope it is not the last. This book educates on the subject of education, without sounding like a dreaded school textbook. Fun, informative and genuinely interesting, thank you so much to Amy McElroy for such a  wonderful book.

HISTORICAL BOOK REVIEW: ‘The House of Dudley: A New History of Tudor England’ by Joanne Paul

The shocking and extraordinary story of the most conniving, manipulative Tudor family you’ve never heard of—the dashing and daring House of Dudley.

Each Tudor monarch made their name with a Dudley by their side—or by crushing one beneath their feet.

The Dudleys thrived at the court of Henry VII, but were sacrificed to the popularity of Henry VIII. Rising to prominence in the reign of Edward VI, the Dudleys lost it all by advancing Jane Grey to the throne over Mary I. That was until the reign of Elizabeth I, when the family was once again at the center of power, and would do anything to remain there. . . .

With three generations of felled favorites, what was it that caused this family to keep rising so high and falling so low?

Here, for the first time, is the story of England’s Borgias, a noble house competing in a murderous game for the English throne. Witness cunning, adultery, and sheer audacity from history’s most brilliant, bold, and deceitful family.

Welcome to the House of Dudley.


Do you love reading about the Tudors, but sometimes feel like every book is much the same (because you have read five hundred of them), even though they all promised a ‘fresh look?’ Here is a book that actually provides a new angle on the Tudors, without having to resort to flimsy claims or controversial ideas.

The Dudley family is known to all who enjoy the Tudor era, but rarely play a starring role, which is unusual given their immense depth and adventure. The names Howard, Seymour, Boleyn, or Grey always get a mention, but the Dudleys were always right there, in plain sight, and would one day make their move for ultimate power in England. Their tale is one of highs and catastrophic lows, and Dr Joanne Paul has wrapped this dramatic family into one precious book. From an author who has already created excellent academic works, this book was guaranteed to succeed from the outset.

The book starts with the funeral of Anne Windsor, Sir Edmund Dudley’s first wife, circa. 1503 after the birth of a daughter, Elizabeth. Edmund Dudley instantly remarried well to Elizabeth Grey, only to become a head shorter one year after King Henry VII died in 1509 when Henry VIII needed someone to blame for his father’s unpopular tax policies. Edmund Dudley left behind his wife Elizabeth and their three sons, John, Jerome, and Andrew. But the loss of Edmund Dudley did not hinder the family for long; John Dudley was reinstated as heir, and his mother Elizabeth married Arthur Plantagenet, the illegitimate son of King Henry IV.

While Jerome Dudley suffered a form of disability, and Andrew Dudley was destined for a life between the navy and financial admin, the eldest John Dudley was destined for a remarkable life, living close to the circles of power. The son of a traitor, Dudley had to be careful, forged quiet friendships and worked in respectful but not extraordinary roles under King Henry VIII, and was still alive to see the great king die in 1547, unlike so many other councillors. By the time young Edward VI took the throne, Dudley was to be the Duke of Warwick, close to the boy king on his regency council. As the Seymour brothers and their associated allies died or fell away, it was Dudley left close to the throne, later made the Duke of Northumberland and the head councillor beside the boy king.

John Dudley’s story could have ended there, until the dying Edward VI named Lady Jane Grey his heir. John had married one of his many sons, Guildford, to Lady Jane. Jane’s father, Henry Grey was John Dudley’s third cousin, and together, through their children, they could control the throne of England and repel Henry VIII’s Catholic daughter, Mary,

The realities of Queen Jane and the volatile aftermath are well-known, though not as often viewed through the lens of the Dudley family. This book takes you through the decades of turmoil of the Dudley family in a way that makes it feel more like a story than a set of historical facts and then goes past John Dudley to his son Robert, and the dramatic life he led with Amy Robsart and Queen Elizabeth I.

This book takes well-worn stories and shows them from an unfamiliar perspective you won’t get elsewhere. I personally have always preferred the people close to power rather than the rulers themselves, making the Dudleys (and Greys) a fantastic subject. Toss in the fact the hardback edition is absolutely gorgeous, and you have a book you will refer back to again and again. Perfect.


This review was not given in return for a free book – buy books (or visit libraries) and make sure authors are fairly paid

HISTORICAL BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Library, A Fragile History’ by Arthur Der Weduwen and Andrew Pettegree

Famed across the known world, jealously guarded by private collectors, built up over centuries, destroyed in a single day, ornamented with gold leaf and frescoes or filled with bean bags and children’s drawings – the history of the library is rich, varied and stuffed full of incident.

In this, the first major history of its kind, Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen explore the contested and dramatic history of the library, from the famous collections of the ancient world to the embattled public resources we cherish today. Along the way, they introduce us to the antiquarians and philanthropists who shaped the world’s great collections, trace the rise and fall of fashions and tastes, and reveal the high crimes and misdemeanours committed in pursuit of rare and valuable manuscripts.


This book is one for all of us book nerds. The Library covers everything you could want to know about books in all their forms. The history of libraries is in-depth, patient, and genuinely interesting, as it not only tells us tales of books, it tells the story of those who owned books throughout history, whether those books were in a library, a single shelf, or just a box. As a result, the history of the book is somehow made human, as it shows from ancient times until now, and from rich to poor, books were the thing that people valued.

The book starts with a recreation of the library of Alexandria, to share the grandeur of the ancient site. A book alone could be lost to this one subject, but the book soon moves on through the creation of books, with the history of tablets, papyrus, leather, through to printed paper. Even while going through these practical elements of a physical book, The Library shows how and why decisions were made as people sought to protect their knowledge and value its physical state. The Library shows how books were considered valuable success markers for the wealthy, kept by even those who couldn’t read themselves. As libraries were often private collections, particularly Latin books, this book is able to tell the story of kings and queens, mighty rulers, and wealthy merchants in times past, it can tell us about who owns books today.

The library does stick to a European viewpoint of the history of books, though also shares eastern Mediterranean influences as well. Being Euro-centric, this also shows the catastrophic advance of colonialism, which also took books across the world. The Library is able to show us how this influenced shared knowledge, even if the physical books in question did not accurately cover the stories of the invaded and colonised nations. This book is one for those who really want to get down to the specific details of the history of books and libraries, a testament to millennia of book-loving.

You can read The Library, A Fragile History, and gain more understanding of why you love your own books today.


This review was not given in return for a free book – buy books (or visit libraries) and make sure authors are fairly paid


Thomas Cromwell was King Henry VIII’s most faithful servant, the only man the king ever openly regretted executing. But Thomas Cromwell came to royal prominence late in life and had 45 years of family, friends and experiences behind him before catching Henry’s eye.

Born a common boy at a time of significant change in England in 1485, Cromwell grew up in a happy, close-knit family, before heading to Europe for dramatic adventures. Returning to England a decade later, Cromwell emerged with the skills of a lawyer and merchant, with the European language skills and connections to match. Marriage, children, friends, family and manor homes all furnished Cromwell’s life, a man happy and settled in London. But more beckoned for the Italian-Englishman, when a special friendship with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey grew, along with the attention of the king.

Tragic personal loss affected Cromwell, hidden behind the more-recorded professional accolades. But friendships remained throughout time, changes in allegiance and even religion. Men who had met the young Cromwell stuck close to him through the years, and Cromwell never forgot a single loyal friend. Cromwell’s desire to support his son saw Gregory become brother-in-law to the king himself, only for more tragedy to harm the ever-growing Cromwell family.

Far from the seemingly dour, black-clad, serious man, Cromwell lavished those around him with gifts, parties, extravagant games, entertainments, animals and outfits. But the glamour and beauty of Cromwell’s life would come to a sudden end, leaving a trail of devastated men and women, and an extraordinary manor home, Austin Friars, scattered to the wind.

Using a wide variety of primary material, this exciting biography weaves a new narrative on the indefatigable Thomas Cromwell, illustrating him more vividly than we’ve known him before.










Of the five Tudor monarchs, only one was ever born to rule. While much of King Henry VIII’s reign is centred on his reckless marriage choices, it was the foundations laid by Henry and Queen Katherine of Aragon that shaped the future of the crown. Among the suffering of five lost heirs, the royal couple placed all their hopes in the surviving Princess Mary. Her early life weaves a tale of promise, diplomacy, and pageantry never again seen in King Henry’s life, but a deep-rooted desire for a son, a legacy of his own scattered childhood, pushed Henry VIII to smother Mary’s chance to rule. An affair soon produced an unlikely heir in Henry Fitzroy, and while one child was pure royalty, the other illegitimate, the comparison of their childhoods would show a race to throne closer than many wished to admit.

King Henry’s cruelty saw his heirs’ fates pivot as wives came and went, and the birth Princess Elizabeth, saw long-term plans upended for short-term desires. With the death of one heir hidden from view, the birth of Prince Edward finally gave the realm an heir born to rule, but King Henry’s personal desires and paranoia left his heirs facing constant uncertainty for another decade until his death. Behind the narrative of Henry VIII’s wives, wars, reformation and ruthlessness, there were children, living lives of education among people who cared for them, surrounded by items in generous locations which symbolised their place in their father’s heart. They faced excitement, struggles, and isolation which would shape their own reigns. From the heights of a surviving princess destined and decreed to influence Europe, to illegitimate children scattered to the winds of fortune, the childhoods of Henry VIII’s heirs is one of ambition, destiny, heartache, and triumph.