John Morton: Adversary of Richard III. Power Behind the Tudors

By Stuart Bradley


I will readily admit that I knew little of the life of John Morton before I picked up Stuart Bradley’s book; which I have come to find is a shame as Morton was a fascinating man! I knew of Morton in regards to his relationship with Margaret Beaufort and passing messages to her son, Henry Tudor, yet the rest of his life remained a mystery.

In his book, Bradley has shed a light on Morton’s life, from his middling early years to his dramatic rise through the church. Morton was more than just a man that passed messages, he was a man that weathered the great storms of the Wars of the Roses and came out on top. From working for Henry VI to his transfer of allegiance to Edward IV to his time in hiding with the future Henry VII, Morton was a man who maneuvered his way through a dangerous time in England’s history.

Bradley showed that Morton was a man of extreme intelligence. A man that was not just committed to his religious duties, but who served his King’s faithfully and developed deep and lasting relationships, especially with Henry VII. The two men worked seamlessly together, furthering the Tudor cause, squashing rebellions and pretenders as well as keeping England’s coffers full.

John Morton was a fascinating, intelligent and dedicated man; dedicated to his faith and to his King. Bradley has done a brilliant job and bringing Morton to life through the use of first-hand documents and intelligent writing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend.


The House of the Red Duke

By Vivienne Brereton


I was gifted this book by a friend and was intrigued to read a fictional portrayal of the famous Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. From the moment I picked this book up, I was enthralled and the story was so well written that I simply had to keep reading.

Brereton weaves a fascinating story of several famous houses which lived during the Tudor age, including the Howards, Stewarts, Boleyns and of course the famous Tudors. In addition to real-life people, Brereton add in several intriguing characters by the name of Nicholas and Tristan, whose lives are threaded with the above families, but I cannot say more or I will give away the big plot twists!

The story spans several decades involving multiple generations of the above families, both in England and across the channel in France. Brereton writes in such a vivid style that the stories of each character weave together chapter by chapter with such intrigue that it was like a beautiful rug coming together one thread at a time. The more I read the more I wanted to know. Then came not one but two plot twists with such incredible writing that I was genuinely left shocked – in the very best way!

As well as being beautifully written, Brereton’s story is based on real-life events during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The marriages, events, peace treaties and possible wars all happened and Brereton’s characters both based on real people and fictional slip seamlessly into these historical events.

If you are looking for a new fiction series that will draw you in and keep you wanting more than this is certainly the book for you! Stay tuned for the second book in The House of the Red Duke series entitled ‘The Lizard Lurking in the Grass’.


Anna Duchess of Cleves: The King’s Beloved Sister

By Heather R. Darsie


I have been eagerly awaiting Darsie’s book on Anna of Cleves for several months now. Advertised as a new way at examining Anna’s life I was interested in what Darsie had to say and now that I have finished, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Darsie did not disappoint. In fact, if you only ever read one book on Anna of Cleves then this is your book!

Through studying Tudor history, I have read quite a lot about Anna of Cleves however the majority of what has been written about her life focuses only on the English perspective and Anna’s time in England. Darsie takes a completely different approach, embedding Anna in the German heritage in which she was born and raised.

Darsie explores the political landscape that Anna was born into. The history of Anna’s family is detailed and how her younger brother became Duke. This is vital to understanding Anna’s story as her formative years were deeply influenced by the politics throughout Germany and wider Europe at the time. In fact, throughout Anna’s life there were constant upheavals both military and religious. Wars raged between France and the Holy Roman Empire and Anna and her family and their Duchies were swept up in these events. In addition to this Luther was making his mark across Europe and religion as it had been known for centuries, was drastically changing. All of these events played a huge role in Anna’s life as well as her marriage to Henry VIII.

In addition to embedding Anna in the wider world in which she lived, Darsie challenges the long-held belief that Henry VIII had his marriage to Anna annulled simply because he found her ugly. In fact, Darsie puts forward a very different theory as to why the marriage was annulled and provides a wealth of information, including ambassadorial reports, letters and the political changes of the time, to support her ideas. In doing so she creates a very different and far more authentic picture of what really happened when Henry VIII had his marriage to Anna annulled.

Darsie also challenges the very inaccurate belief that Anna of Cleves was ugly. In fact, she provides a wide range of first hand accounts as to what people really thought, not just of Anna’s beauty but also of her grace and poise. Darsie also challenges the written accounts that Anna was ugly by providing reasons as to why such information was inaccurately spread throughout Europe.

Darsie’s writing is so enthralling that once I picked her book up, I simply did not want to put it down, I was suddenly captivated with Anna’s life! The sheer amount of research that has gone into this book is just astronomical and it is clear that Darsie has poured both her love and knowledge into this book. Through first hand accounts and a detailed account of what was happening in both Germany and Europe as well as the political shifting of alliances, Darsie has brought Anna’s world to life and in turn shed an often-overlooked light on this extraordinary woman.

If you only ever read one book on Anna of Cleves then I strongly recommend this one. Thoroughly researched, well written and examining Anna’s life from a never before viewed angle, Heather R. Darsie has done Anna of Cleves true justice in this book. A must have for any bookshelf!


Heather R. Darsie at the Louvre, Paris with Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of Anna of Cleves. Taken from Heather R. Darsie’s website.

I would like to say a very big THANK YOU to the Tudor Times for sending me a copy of this stunning ‘Tudor Book of the Garden’.


This book is a stunning combination of the history of Tudor gardens as well as a garden planner for your own yard. There is a great deal of information all about the types of gardens in the Tudor era, what tools they used, gardening books of the age as well as the types of plants that were planted and what they were used for.

There are also sections divided into seasons in which you can put your own information about your garden, what you have planted and space to draw out a map for your garden. There are also helpful hints on when to plant certain flowers, when to prune and the best time to plan different types of vegetables.

The layout of this book is just beautiful and it is decorated with images of Tudor plants and gardens. It’s very easy to use and a great book to keep handy and use all year round.

The only small consideration is that some parts of this Tudor Book of the Garden isn’t suitable for people in the southern hemisphere. Simply because the seasons are reversed eg. The book has summer from June to August where in the southern hemisphere June to August is winter. However other parts of the book are valuable as they provide a wonderful wealth of gardening information and Tudor gardening history and overall this does not diminish from the usefulness and beauty of this book.

Tudor Book of the Garden is only £15 and available on April 18th, however it would be a real shame to miss out, luckily you can preorder your copy now!

Tudor Book of the Garden

I am both honoured and excited to have Heather R Darsie stop by on her book tour for her new book ‘Anna Duchess of Cleves: The King’s Beloved Sister’. Today Heather provides a fascinating insight into Anna’s grandparents…..


Anna of Cleves’ Maternal Grandparents: Wilhelm IV and III of Jülich-Berg and Sibylle of Brandenburg

By Heather R. Darsie

In honor of Charles T. Reice, 1926-2019. Reice served in the US army during World War II, including landing on the beaches of Normandy. He is remember as a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg was born 9 January 1455 to Gerhard of Jülich-Berg, from the Heimbach branch of the Dukes of Jülich. Gerhard was the son of Wilhelm of Ravensberg and Adelheid von Tecklenburg. When Gerhard’s uncle Adolf of Ravensberg, who eventually became the Duke of Jülich-Berg-Ravensberg, passed away without male issue in 1437, Gerhard became duke. During the late 1430s to early 1440s, the Dukes of Jülich-Berg battled with the Egmond dukes over their claims to the older territorial duchy of Jülich-Guelders. In 1444 at the Battle of Linnich, Gerhard successfully defeated the Egmond dukes, who renounced all claim to Jülich. The Egmond dukes retained Guelders through a contract with Gerhard, but that was later purchased by Burgundy in 1473. This was one of the claims which would lead to squabbles between Anna’s brother Wilhelm of Cleves and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg was the eldest son of Gerhard. Shortly after his birth, Gerhard’s mental health rapidly declined to the point where Gerhard’s wife, Sophia of Saxony-Lauenburg, took over the regency of Jülich-Berg until Gerhard died and Wilhelm was old enough to rule the duchies himself. Wilhelm’s younger brother Adolf died in 1473 during an epidemic, possibly the Black Plague, which reared its ugly head off and on throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. Wilhelm’s mother Sophia died during the same epidemic, shortly before Adolf. Wilhelm fully took over Jülich-Berg in 1475, when he was roughly twenty years old.

Wilhelm of J-B

Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg

Wilhelm married twice. His first marriage was in 1472 to the Countess Elisabeth of Nassau-Saarbrücken. The Countess Elisabeth was wealthy and came from an established line, bringing honor to Jülich-Berg. Sadly, she passed away in 1479 from puerperal fever after the delivery of a stillborn child. The couple did not have any living children. After Elisabeth’s death, the idea of a marriage between Philippa of Guelders, twin sister of the future Duke Karl of Guelders from the Egmond line, was considered. France was in support of the marriage, but re-joining Jülich and Guelders would lead to war between Jülich and Burgundy.

Two years later, in 1481, Wilhelm married Sibylle of Brandenburg. Sibylle was born on 31 May 1467 to Elector Albrecht III Achilles of Brandenburg and Anna of Saxony. Sibylle was the sixth of thirteen children, making the match between Wilhelm and Sibylle prestigious and well-connected. Wilhelm and Sibylle had one child together, Maria of Jülich-Berg, born 3 August 1491. Wilhelm may have had an illegitimate son named Johann of Jülich, as well. The marriage with Sibylle, daughter of the Elector of Brandenburg was a grand affair. The marriage of Wilhelm and Sibylle bolstered Jülich-Berg’s support of the Holy Roman Empire, given the staunch relationship which Sibylle’s father had with the Holy Roman Emperor.

In addition to the prestige of the match between Wilhelm and Sibylle, Sibylle was supposed to bring a large quantity of much-needed money to the marriage. The money was very slow in coming. Wilhelm had to repeatedly petition his father-in-law for the funds, which were needed in part to support military stability of Jülich-Berg during the rest of the tumultuous 1480s and 1490s.

Sibylle of Brandenburg

Sibylle of Brandenburg

During the 1470s, there was a struggle between Burgundy and Cologne over control of the Archdiocese of Cologne. By the end of 1474, Wilhelm joined with Burgundy, an alliance previously established by his father Gerhard. Wilhelm’s international policies were weighed in favor of Burgundy until 1498, when he began to shift toward supporting France in its struggles with Burgundy. Wilhelm eventually assisted in convincing the Archbishop of Cologne to give up his seat. At the same time, there were struggles in the Lower Rhine region of Germany. This led to Wilhelm securing various treaties for the soundness of Jülich-Berg. Most of the treaties were successfully agreed upon in the 1470s, including the initial treaty with Cleves-Mark and a treaty with Cologne.

Wilhelm became a supporter of the Maximilian, Duke of Burgundy jure uxoris through his marriage to Mary of Burgundy. Wilhelm provided support during the rebellion against Maximilian, made King of the Romans in 1486, in the Netherlands. Wilhelm remained mostly pro-Imperial throughout the 1490s, even for a time after Karl of Egmond was placed as Duke of Guelders. This made Wilhelm nervous because Duke Karl also had a possible claim to Jülich. Maximilian offered support to Wilhelm by providing troops.

Wanting to avoid a succession crisis and consolidate power in the Lower Rhine region, Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg agreed to join with Johann II of Cleves-Mark through the marriage of their children. The engagement of Anna of Cleves’ parents, Maria of Jülich-Berg and Johann III of Cleves-Mark, took place in 1496 when Maria was 5 and Johann was 6. They finally married in 1510. Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg ruled successfully until his death in 1511, when Johann III of Cleves became Duke of Jülich-Berg jure uxoris, by virtue of his marriage to Maria of Jülich-Berg. Louis XII of France, a distant cousin of the Dukes of Cleves, supported the match between Johann III and Maria.

By the end of the 15th century, Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg, Johann II of Cleves-Mark, and Karl of Guelders agreed to have any of their disputes mediated by Louis XII of France. Wilhelm traveled to France for a time to work out specifics concerning Guelders. Karl also appeared in France, though Johann II remained behind in the Cleves-Mark territories. The Treaty of Orléans between Jülich and Guelders was ratified on 29 December 1499, granting Louis XII final say in any disputes between Jülich and Guelders. However, the Treaty of Orléans excluded the Holy Roman Empire, under whose jurisdiction both Jülich and Guelders fell. This overt cooling of the relationship between the Holy Roman Empire was caused by Maximilian, who remained as King of the Romans until he was elevated to Holy Roman Emperor in 1503, because of Maximilian effectively pitting Jülich-Berg and Cleves-Mark against Guelders at the cost of Jülich-Berg and Cleves-Mark.

Wilhelm successfully maintained a diplomatic relationship with Maximilian, even staying with Maximilian in Innsbruck for a long period in 1501 to determine reparations for Jülich-Berg’s involvement with the struggle over Guelders. For the rest of his life, Wilhelm saw Maximilian around once per year. Evidence of Wilhelm’s close relationship with Maximilian is supported by a commission for Wilhelm as Duke of Jülich-Berg being sent on a peace keeping mission in 1506 on behalf of the now-Emperor Maximilian I 1503, plus the possibility of Wilhelm becoming Regent of the Low Countries being bruited about in 1507. Wilhelm was also supported by Emperor Maximilian in the marriage treaty between Johann III of Cleves-Mark and Maria of Jülich-Berg despite attempts by Louis XII of France to break the treaty and wed Maria to the much older Karl of Guelders. On 4 May 1509, Maximilian signed a patent securing Maria of Jülich-Berg’s rights. As mentioned above, Johann III and Maria finally wed in 1510.

Wilhelm continued to secure Jülich-Berg against its enemies, and support the idea of monastic reforms. He finally died on 6 September 1511 in Düsseldorf, leaving Sibylle of Brandenburg a widow. Wilhelm left most of what was left of his money for the maintenance of

Sibylle, who outlived Wilhelm by 13 years. Sibylle maintained a close relationship with her daughter Maria, and served as governess of Jülich-Berg during her widowhood on behalf of Johann III and Maria. It is likely that Maria’s eldest daughter, Sybylla of Cleves, is named after Sibylle of Brandenburg, and that Maria’s son the future Duke Wilhelm of Jülich-Cleves-Berg was named after Maria’s father Wilhelm.

Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’ by Heather R. Darsie is released 15 April in the UK and 1 July in the US. If you live in the US and cannot wait until July, you can order a hardcover from the UK Amazon. The book can be purchased here:

UK Hardcover

US Hardcover

You can also visit Heather R. Darsie’s website: Maidens and Manuscripts

Sources & Suggested Reading

1. “Gerhard VII, Duke of Jülich-Berg.“ Retrieved 20 March 2019.

2. Redlich, Otto Reinhard. „Wilhelm IV., Herzog von Jülich.“ Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Vol. 43, pp. 100-106. Historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (1898).

3. Darsie, Heather. Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister.’ Stroud: Amberley Publishing (2019).

4. Knapp, Johann F. Regenten- und Volks-Geschichte der Länder Cleve, Mark, Jülich, Berg und Ravensberg , Becker (1836).

5. von Minutoli, Julius. Das kaiserliche Buch des Markgrafen Albrecht Achilles. Schneider (1850).

Please do stop by other sites on Heather R. Darsie’s book tour….

Book Tour