Bowmen of England

by Donald F. Featherstone

I was pleasantly surprised just how much I enjoyed Donald Featherstone’s book on the Bowmen of England. Before reading I thought, how can you make an entire book about the medieval bow? You pick it up and fire an arrow…. Oh boy how very wrong I was! I found myself so enthralled with Featherstone’s book that once I picked it up, I didn’t want to put it down again.

The book starts by exploring the history of the English longbow, where it came from, what it was made out of and how it was made. The reasons for the use of the bow were explored as well as the class of people that used them. It was fascinating to learn how the importance of the longbow grew as its military significance was realized. When King’s realized the huge damage the longbow could do within battles it became law that each man between a certain age own a longbow and arrows as well as compulsory practice on Sundays. So important was the longbow that it became ingrained within the English way of life. Trading and imports were controlled around the use and the need of the longbow and the value of a man who could wield a bow effectively increased rapidly.

Featherstone details the type of men that would have used a longbow, the strength and skill they would have needed to use such a huge weapon efficiently. I had always thought that an archer was simply that, an archer. He fires his arrows and then when they were used he went to the back of the army to let others fight. However, Featherstone showed that this was often not the case. Not only was an archer skilled at how best to use a longbow, depending on the weather conditions, the distance of the army, the type of armour they wore etc. but they were also skilled at wielding swords and blades. After their arrows were spent archers would go into the battle, unencumbered by heavy armour they were agile and could maneuver themselves with greater ease and speed than a man fully clad in heavy armour. These men became highly dangerous to the enemy for a nimble archer could plunge a blade into the weak spot of armour before the enemy even had time to turn around. These were men that could wield both blade and bow.

Featherstone then details just how the longbow was used throughout history in war and the strategies employed from the first use in the 13th century right though to perhaps its final use in the Second World War! Specifically, he examined how having archers skilled in using the longbow were essential to many English victories against Scotland and France. What truly surprised me is that over a hundred years, from when the first archers were used against the French armies to the Hundred Years War, the French did not change their military tactics. Instead of realizing just how devastating a shower of arrows could be they continued to march, quite literally, to their deaths!

The visual imagery Featherstone uses when writing is both vivid and detailed. As I read, I could imagine a volley of thousands of arrows raining down, turning the bright blue sky to darkness before the shattering sound of arrows hitting and piercing heavy armour erupted.

For a book that appears to be just about the bow and arrow Featherstone’s Bowmen of England is so much more. With a rich and intriguing history, the longbow was a vital piece of equipment that helped to shape the very foundations of England’s history.

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Richard III: Fact and Fiction

By Matthew Lewis

Richard III is one of England’s most dividing figures. Some see him as a usurper, stealing the throne from his nephew and locking the boy and his brother away in the Tower, ultimately doing away with them. Others paint him as a hero, the rightful heir to the English throne, killed by the evil Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth. From such opposing views, over the centuries, a large number of stories have arisen about Richard III.  These have become so ingrained within history that somewhere along the line they became fact. But are they real? Did Richard III kill his nephews? Did he usurp the throne? Was he an evil man? Did he have a crooked back? Where is the truth and where is the myth?

In this book, Matthew Lewis sets the facts straight about many of the myths and legends that have built up around Richard III. He presents the alleged fact and then details the exact events and information surrounding each statement. Lewis draws on primary sources and documented evidence from Richard III’s life or as close to as possible to try and provide the reader with as much information as he can, carefully analyzing what has been presented. As I read it soon became very clear that many so-called ‘facts’ about Richard III are based on rumours, allegations and hearsay written a hundred years after his death! There’s no evidence to support these facts and yet they have become ingrained in the modern-day belief.

What I enjoyed most about this book is that Matthew Lewis presents an evenly balanced view of Richard III. While some see him as an evil man and others as good there are others who see both the good and bad in Richard III. This is clearly Matthew Lewis as he will readily state if Richard III did something that would have been considered wrong or inappropriate at the time. There’s no painting Richard III in a positive or negative light, Lewis simply presents the facts as they are and lets the reader decide for themselves.

No matter what your opinion of Richard III is, love him or hate him or maybe you lay somewhere in between, I would strongly recommend reading this book. It will bust some commonly held myths that have built up about Richard III over the centuries, most coming from Shakespeare’s famous play. It will also give you lots of information, some quite eye-opening, about who Richard III really was.

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The Death of Arthur Tudor

On the 2nd of April 1502 Arthur Tudor, the oldest son of King Henry VIII, died at Ludlow Castle. He was just fifteen years of age and had been married for less than five months.

Arthur Tudor had married Katherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile. King Henry VII had worked hard over a period of several years to secure a marriage between his son and Princess Katherine in an effort to see a strong alliance created between England and Spain. The marriage would also help to put England on the international stage and secure the succession of the Tudors.

The young couple were married in a lavish ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral on the 14th of November 1501. It was decided that despite the couple’s age, Arthur being only fifteen years and Catherine seventeen, they should return to Ludlow Castle, Arthur’s primary residence in Wales. On the 21st of December Arthur and Catherine left London for Ludlow Castle. The couple stayed at Bewdley for a short time and also at Woodstock in Oxfordshire, where they celebrated Christmas together.  Upon returning to Ludlow, Arthur, as Prince of Wales, along with his council returned to the task of governing of Wales.

Unfortunately, plague and illness had been lingering around Ludlow however the young Prince paid no heed to this and continued on with his duties. Then in late March he and Catherine were struck down by an illness. Both were ordered to their beds and confined in their rooms while attended to by doctors. Servants prayed frantically for the young Prince and Princess of Wales however it would be to no avail. While Katherine was still sick in her rooms her husband and heir to the English throne died.

While the exact cause of Arthur’s death remains unknown several theories have been put forward. It has been suggested that Arthur may have suffered from some form of cancer or possibly consumption. Another theory that has commonly been suggested, which ties in with Katherine of Aragon’s illness at the same time, is the dreaded sweating sickness.

The sweating sickness had first struck England in the fifteenth century and appeared on and off with one of the worse epidemics being in 1528. It was believed to have been carried from Europe by rats and transferred to humans by small biting insects. The symptoms were something like influenza or pneumonia, with the patient having pains and aches all over the body, headaches, a great thirst and horrible sweating. They would experience great exhaustion and a desire to sleep, rapid pulse rate, and dizziness. Many who caught the sweating sickness were dead within twenty for hours.

When news of the Prince’s death arrived Henry VII was distraught and in his great grief, Elizabeth was brought for to comfort her husband and King. Elizabeth reassured Henry that they were both young and that they would have more children. After leaving her husband Elizabeth broke down into tears and Henry had to come and comfort his wife.

True to her word Elizabeth became pregnant with her seventh child shortly afterwards. After a long and difficult labour, Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter named Katherine on the 2nd of February 1503 at the Tower of London. Sadly little Katherine died eight days later on the 10th of February. Elizabeth of York also fell sick and she died on the 11th of February 1503, on her 37th birthday.

In his Chronicle of the history of England, Edward Hall writes of Arthur’s death: “For that noble prince Arthur, the kynges fyrst begotten sonne, after that he had bene juaryed to the lady Katheryn his vvyfe. v. monethes, departed out of this transitory lyfe, i-u his castel of Ludlowe, and with a great funerall obsequy was buryed in the cathedral churche of Worcettre”.

After his death, Arthur Tudor’s body was disembowelled, filled with spices and embalmed. The body lay in state until April 23rd where it was taken to a local parish where three masses were said. Then on the 25th April, in the pouring rain, Arthur’s coffin was taken with great ceremony and dignity forty miles to Worchester Cathedral. The weather was so bad that the cart carrying the Princes’ coffin repeatedly got stuck in the mud and oxen were used to haul the cart out.

At Worcester Cathedral the late Arthur Tudor received a funeral befitting his status. Approximately five hundred and fifty people were involved and almost 2400 yards of black mourning cloth was purchased. Over a thousand candles burned using up around 6000 pounds of candle wax! Great prayers were said for the young Prince’s soul and the coffin was buried in the south end of the high altar. William Smith, bishop of Lincoln cast holy water and dirt into the grave and the Comptroller’s of Arthur’s household broke their white staffs and placed them into the grave as a sign of respect. Henry VII ordered a great tomb to be erected in his son’s memory.

With Arthur’s death his younger brother, Henry, became heir to the English throne. The world knows what sort of King Henry VIII was, but how different might history have been had Arthur survived his sickness and become King?

Arthur Tudor

 

Sources:

Abernethy, Susan 2013, Arthur Tudor, Price of Wales, The Freelance History Writer, viewed 24 February 2016, <http://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2013/04/01/arthur-tudor-prince-of-wales/&gt;.

Grueninger, Natalie 2013, The Death of Arthur Tudor, Price of Wales, On the Tudor Trail, viewed 24 February 2016, < http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2013/04/02/the-death-of-arthur-tudor-prince-of-wales/&gt;.

Licence, Amy 2013, Elizabeth of York the Forgotten Queen, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire.

Penn, Thomas 2011, Winter King The Dawn of Tudor England, Allen Lane, London.

Ridgway, Claire. Sweating Sickness in a Nutshell, MadeGlobal Publishing, 2014.

Russell, Gareth 2011, April 2nd, 1502: The Death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, Confessions of a CI-Devant, viewed 24 February 2016, <http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/april-2nd-1502-death-of-arthur-tudor.html&gt;.

Weir, Alison 2014, Elizabeth of York The First Tudor Queen, Vintage Books, London.

 

Katherine Parr

Katherine was born in 1512, most likely in London or Buckinghamshire. Her parents were Sir Thomas Parr, a favourite of King Henry VIII during his early reign, and Maud Parr who served as a lady in waiting to Henry VIII’s first wife Katherine of Aragon. It is believed that Katherine was named after the Queen. Katherine had a younger brother named William, born in 1513 and a younger sister named Anne born in 1515.

Tragically Katherine’s father would die on the 11th November 1517 when Katherine was just five years old. After her father’s death, Katherine’s care and that of her siblings remained with their mother who went to great length to see her children well educated. Maud Parr proved to be a very adept woman and managed to oversee her children’s education as well as run the family estates.

It would appear that Katherine held a love for learning and she became fluent in French, Latin and Italian. She also learned to read and write proficiently and appears to have held a strong interest in medicines.

Between April 1523 and March 1524, Katherine’s mother attempted to arrange a marriage for her eldest daughter with Henry Scrope, son and heir of Lord Scrope of Bolton. However, the marriage never came to be due to disagreements over the dowry and Henry Scrope died the following year.

A marriage was arranged between Katherine and Edward the son of Thomas Borough, third Baron Borough of Gainsborough in 1529. At the time Edward was in his early twenties and Katherine was approximately seventeen. There are no reports on the relationship between Edward and Katherine although it has been suggested that Edward’s father Thomas Borough was overbearing and perhaps even mentally ill. The marriage only last four years as in April 1533 Edward died.

On December 1st 1531 Katherine’s mother also passed and so when her husband died Katherine was left with nowhere to go. It is reported that she went to live with her cousins the Stricklands of Sizergh Castle, Westmorland.

In the summer of 1534, Katherine married her second husband John Neville, third Baron Latimer, of Snape Castle, Yorkshire. At forty-one, John Neville was almost twice Katherine’s age and had been married twice previously having already fathered two children. Upon her marriage, Katherine became Lady Latimer and stepmother to her husband’s children.

During the late months of 1536, the Pilgrimage of Grace broke out in the North. The rebellion formed as a series of revolts which originated in Lincolnshire. The people were unhappy with the dissolution of their Abbey in Louth, upset with many of the government commissions in the area which were being conducted to look at the resources that the smaller monasteries had as well as the conduct of the clergy. There was also a widespread rumour that the government would confiscate the jewels, plate and wealth of the monasteries and also impose new taxes upon the people.

As the Pilgrimage drew south they captured Katherine’s husband Lord Latimer and forced him to join their ranks. Latimer was in a difficult situation trying to please both the rebels and remain loyal to his King. Fearing that Latimer would betray them the rebels captured Katherine and her stepchildren in January 1537 and held them hostage. Fortunately, Latimer managed to secure their release but the experience must have been quite traumatic for Katherine. The rebellion was crushed shortly afterwards and Latimer barely managed to escape punishment by the King although his name was held in disgrace for many years.

In 1542 Katherine managed to secure a place in the household of Princess Mary, daughter of King Henry VIII by his first wife Katherine of Aragon. Mary and those of her household were frequent at court and it was there that Catherine met Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, third wife of Henry VIII. There was a romantic interest between the pair and with her husband’s failing health it may have been that Katherine hoped that once he passed she could marry Sir Thomas, however, this was not to be. Around the same time, the King’s eye fell upon Katherine and he began to send her a series of gifts.

Lord Latimer died on 2nd March 1543 and four months later on the 12th July 1543 in the Queen’s Closet at Hampton Court, Katherine married Henry VIII. She was to be his sixth and last wife.

One of Katherine’s greatest accomplishments as Queen was to bring Henry closer to his children. Katherine was already friends with Mary, whom she had served previously and as Queen, she worked hard to befriend Elizabeth, Henry’s daughter with his second wife Anne Boleyn and Edward, his son with this third wife Jane Seymour. Both Edward and Elizabeth held a strong love of learning and this was a love Katherine also shared. Katherine took an interest in her step children’s education and both Elizabeth and Edward wrote frequently to their stepmother. It was through Katherine’s perseverance that both Mary and Elizabeth were returned to the line of succession.

When Henry VIII went on campaign to France between July and September 1544 he left Katherine as Regent. This provided Katherine will a great deal of responsibility which she oversaw with great interest and care. However, there were those that were opposed to the new Queen.

Katherine believed in the “new learnings” and the ideas that were rapidly spreading throughout Europe. These beliefs were to become known as Protestantism and Katherine would often engage the King in lively debates about religion in an attempt to take his mind off of his ailing health.  She also had a collection of books which were considered heresy but which she and her other ladies in waiting often read and discussed.

There were those at court, such as Bishop Stephen Gardiner, who were devout Catholics and against these beliefs. With the King’s failing health and his ever-growing temper Gardiner and those around him including Sir Thomas Wriothesley and Sir Richard Rich sought to bring down the Queen. In the summer of 1546 a letter for Catherine’s arrest was drawn up but a copy was accidentally dropped and when found immediately brought to the Queen.

As soon as Katherine was informed she fell to tears but gathered herself and went straight to the King. She threw herself at Henry VIII’s mercy and pleaded that she was just a mere woman, seeking guidance from her husband the King and that she only debated with him in an effort to take his mind off the pain in his leg. Luckily Henry VIII seemed satisfied with this and any arrest warrant against Katherine was dropped.

Katherine was known for her literacy skills and she published her own works including an English translation of Fisher’s ‘Psalmi seu precationes’. She then went on to write ‘Lamentations of a Sinner’ which was the first published work of an English Queen and went on to be a huge success.

Henry VIII died on 28th January 1547 at Hampton Court. Much to Katherine’s surprise she was completely left out of the regency of the young King Edward VI. In May, less than four months after the King’s death Katherine married Sir Thomas Seymour without the permission of the new King or council. This caused great tension between Katherine and King Edward VI and the Dowager Queen removed herself from the court. However, she did manage to gain the guardianship of her stepdaughter Elizabeth while her husband bought the wardship of Lady Jane Grey.

Over the centuries there has been a great deal of debate as to the relationship that developed between Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour. It has been suggested that there was a sexual affair between the two although this seems unlikely. It may have been as simple as an innocent infatuation from Elizabeth or an interest from the much older Seymour. Either way, Seymour would enter Elizabeth’s bedchamber wearing nothing but his shirt and sometimes even got into the young girl’s bed to tickle her. Katherine knew nothing at first of what was going on but when she found out she soon sent Elizabeth away in disgust. However, through a series of letters, it appears as though the two were reconciled.

At the age of thirty-five, Katherine was pregnant for the first time. She gave birth to a daughter named Mary after Princess Mary on the 30th of August 1548. Tragically Katherine caught puerperal fever, an infection of the uterus or vaginal tract. Writing her will Katherine left everything to her husband. She died on the 5th of September and was buried at Sudeley Chapel.

Catherine Parr

Sources:

Jokinen, A 2012, Katherine Parr (c.1512-1548), luminarium: Anthology of English Literature, viewed 22 ugust 2015, <http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/katherineparr.htm&gt;.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Katherine [Kateryn, Catherine; née Katherine Parr] (1512–1548), 2015, Oxford University Press, viewed 22 August 2015, <http://www.oxforddnb.com/&gt;.

Ridgway, C, Catherine Parr, The Anne Boleyn Files, viewed 22 August 2015, <http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/bios/catherine-parr/&gt;.

 

 

William Tyndale

William Tyndale was born in Gloucestershire in 1494 to parents who worked in the cloth trade. Tyndale was born into a Catholic-dominated England under the rule of Henry VII. He was brought up a strict and devout Catholic being taught the importance of mass and good works which would help him gain access to heaven. He would have participated in regular confession and penance and his daily life would have been dominated by Saint days and following the Catholic faith. The bible that Tyndale would have known growing up would have been written in Latin, the holy language. Meanwhile, the common people would have spoken English, a rough language which was not considered suitable for the holiness of the Church.

With the bible and many masses being conducted in Latin this allowed those that spoke the language, such as the Bishops, the Pope and the King, to dictate what the people were told and what information they knew. As they could not read the bible the common people relied heavily upon the Church to tell them what they should and should not do – this, in turn, gave the Church and the King great power over their subjects.

Naturally, without being able to read the bible and access the information within for themselves, the people were not able to challenge the Church or the laws. Instead, they were expected to accept what they were being told. To translate the bible into English during the early 16th century was strictly forbidden. It was considered heresy and punishable by death.

In 1506, at just twelve years of age Tyndale started his education at Magdalen Hall, Oxford one of the leading Universities in all of Europe at the time. His education would last eight years and while he was at Oxford his passion for languages flourished. He would have been taught Latin, Greek, German, French, Hebrew, Spanish and Italian, languages which would be vital for his biblical translations later in life. Oxford University was dominated by the Roman Catholic doctrine and studying the bible at Oxford naturally meant reading it in Latin. While at Oxford Tyndale became dissatisfied with studying the bible in Latin and he began to lean on learned scholars and humanists from Europe such as Erasmus. Erasmus believed that to study the bible it must be studied in its original language, which for the New Testament was Greek. Tyndale was also inspired by Martin Luther, who translated the bible into German. Luther discovered that the bible did not talk about the Catholic Church being the path to heaven by that the path to heaven was obtained by the justification of faith.

Tyndale openly declared that he defied the pope and all his laws. His mission was now to translate the bible into English so that the common people could read what was really written in the bible rather than blindly accepting what they were being told by the Catholic Church.

Rumour quickly began to spread throughout Gloucestershire that Tyndale was a heretic. In 1523 Tyndale fled to London to track down Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of London who he believed would help him in his mission to translate the bible into English. Tunstall was a former Oxford scholar himself and had helped Erasmus when he had been in England. Tyndale turned to the Bishop as a possible patron however Tunstall was a devout Catholic and had no time or inclination to support Tyndale.

In 1524 Tyndale left for Germany. Tyndale’s whereabouts over the next few years are difficult to track but it is known that during this time he began his translation of the bible into English. He studied both Erasmus Greek bible and Luther’s German Bible and worked long hours, up to fifteen hours a day.

Once Tyndale had translated the bible into English he faced another great hurdle, finding someone who would print it. In Cologne, funded by English merchants, Tyndale found a sympathetic printer in Peter Quentell. While Tyndale’s bible was being printed an associate of Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London also happened to commission Peter Quentell to do some printing. Through a drunken discussion, it was discovered that three thousand copies of the bible in English were to be printed and sent to England. The printer was raided but Tyndale had managed to escape, however, he was now a man on the run.

In 1526 copies of Tyndale’s bible began to filter into London. Despite costing around two and a half weeks wage for the common servant people began to buy Tyndale’s bible and read in earnest. The Catholic Church and Henry VIII were immediately alarmed. The Bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Sir Thomas More began an all-out attack not only on Tyndale but on anyone caught reading or smuggling copies of Tyndale’s bible. On the 26th October 1526, Bishop Tunstall preached a vicious attack upon Tyndale’s translation, stating that it was full of lies and errors and then outside of St Paul’s copies of Tyndale’s bible were publically burnt. When Tyndale heard of this he became more determined than ever and began to write a series of attacks against the Catholic Clergy.

While all this was happening Henry VIII had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn. Henry sought to cast his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, aside and pleaded to the Pope for an annulment of his marriage, which the Pope refused. Ironically Anne Boleyn handed Henry VIII a book by Tyndale entitled “The Obedience of the Christian Man” written in 1528. Henry was enthralled by this book. Within its pages, Tyndale had first emphasised the importance of the scripture over any other authority, such as the Catholic Church and the Pope. He also emphasised the authority of the King, stating that it was God who appointed Kings and that the King was the authority of his realm. Naturally, this idea, that Henry had authority over the Pope, was extremely relevant to Henry at the time.

Yet in 1530, a mere two years later, Tyndale published another book entitled the “The Practyse of Prelates”. Within this book, he attacked Henry’s desire for an annulment of his marriage saying that it was unscriptural. Perhaps in the hopes of gaining support from Tyndale Henry VIII offered Tyndale a return to England and a place at his court with all his past transgressions forgiven. Thomas Cromwell, right-hand man to the King organised for one of his agents, Steven Vaughn to meet Tyndale and Tyndale accepted but he stated that the only way that he would return was if Henry VIII would bring out a bible in English.

Despite Henry VIII’s eventual break with Rome, the King remained conservative in his beliefs and still believed in such Catholic traditions as penance, the sacraments and the mass. He also still strongly believed in the bible being only in Latin.

In 1530 Tyndale began his translation of the Old Testament, not from German or Latin but from the original Hebrew. His resolve to see the bible translated into English was stronger than ever.

In 1535 Tyndale was in Antwerp which was under the rule of The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.  During this time Tyndale became friend with Henry Phillips, a fellow graduate of Oxford. Tyndale was lead to believe that Phillips held the same beliefs regarding the translation of the Bible into English but ultimately he would be betrayed. Phillips was a strict Catholic and was undercover in an attempt to flush Tyndale out of hiding. In a ruse, Phillips came to Tyndale’s house one day saying he had no money, Tyndale believing his friend took him out to dinner but before they could eat Tyndale was arrested.

Taken to Vilvoorde near Brussells Tyndale was held for at least fourteen months in appalling conditions. Even facing death Tyndale pleaded for his Hebrew bible and paper so that he could continue his translations. Eventually, he was charged with heresy and sentenced to be burned at the stake. On the 6th of October 1536, Tyndale was taken from his cell and tied to a stake. His last words were recorded as “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes!” As an act of mercy, he was strangled but he did not die and as he was being burned he woke but made no noise or attempt to move as he was burnt to death.

Ironically in 1535 Henry VIII commissioned a bible to be translated into English by Myles Coverdale, of which Coverdale used much of Tyndale’s own translation to assist his own. In 1538 Henry VIII ordered that a copy of the bible in English be placed in every parish in England. Despite his tragic death Tyndale’s greatest desire had finally been achieved, the bible was now accessible to every Englishman.

Sadly while thousands of Tyndale’s original bibles in English were printed today only one complete copy remains and this is at the Wuerttemberg State Library, Stuttgart. Through examining this surviving copy it can be seen that Tyndale chose to keep the words simple and the sentences short. He carefully chose the translated meaning of each word so that the bible was not filled with references to the Church or Priests but to people who shared a common love of God. In essence, he wanted the common people not only to be able to read but to understand the bible in their own language.

William Tyndale’s greatest legacy was translating the bible into English, making it accessible to the common person. He wanted to spread the word of God to the English people so that they would no longer be clouded by the laws and rules of the Catholic Church but that their path to heaven would be through justification by faith in God.

William Tyndale

Source

Daniell, D 2001, William Tyndale: A Biography, Yale University Press, USA.

The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England 2013, Documentary, BBC, United Kingdom, Presented by Melvyn Bragg.