1520: The Field of the Cloth of Gold

By Amy Licence

The Field of the Cloth of Gold is a fascinating and detailed look at the famous meeting between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France that took place in 1520.

Right from the start, it is evident that author Amy Licence has done a great deal of research for this book. She has studied documents including letters from ambassadors, inventories, personal letters, and records kept both privately and publicly from such sources as English, Italian, French and Venetian (just to name a few). If there is a reference to the happenings before, during or after the famous event then you can be sure Amy Licence has studied it! Using this wealth of information Licence gives a brief background about Henry VIII, his wife Katherine of Aragon, Francis I and his wife Claude and then moves on to discuss the political reasons as to why this magnificent meeting took place.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold was an event that lasted over two weeks that had, quite literally, thousands upon thousands of people involved. Licence details the multitude of jobs that were required to bring this event to life, from builders to carpenters, from cooks to seamstresses, from servants to painters. The number of people involved was just incredible and it is almost overwhelming to learn how much work these people did to ensure a successful and grand meeting between these two powerful Kings. I was fascinated by the lists that Licence included such as the range of food that people ate, the wages paid to workers and the massive amount of materials needed. It is details such as this, that are often not included in other recounts of the event, that shows just how much research Licence has done for this book. As well as all of this, Licence discusses, again in detail, the different things that took place each day. From the first meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I, through to their respective Queen’s meeting, to the lavish dances that were presented, the jousting and other sporting events that were undertaken, the magnificent feasts held and then the final meeting between both kings.

Following on from such a detailed description of The Field of the Cloth of Gold, Licence discusses the political results from the meeting. She talks about both the short and long term relations between England and France and the impact that the event had upon both countries as well as greater Europe.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold is a fascinating, detailed book which does not miss a single detail. It is, quite honestly, amazing that such a massive event was able to be successfully accomplished! Licence does a wonderful job of discussing both the political and personal impacts of this event on England, France and wider Europe. I really enjoyed this book and found it an engaging read. Licence has a fluid writing style that really captures the reader and this book is a testament to that style. Highly Recommended!


Lovell our Dogge: The Life of Viscount Lovell, Closest Friend of Richard III and Failed Regicide

By Michele Schindler

Michele Schindler’s book on Sir Francis Lovell is a long-overdue study of an extraordinary man. A man who gave up the promise of a pardon and the return of his lands, property and position, to seek justice for his close and beloved friend, Richard III.

Schindler details the early years of Lovell’s life. As well as detailing information about Lovell’s grandparents, parents and siblings she also discusses the interesting relationship that Lovell had with his father. Schindler provides very plausible evidence to suggest that Lovell may have been abused in some manner by his father, a horrific thing to happen to a child and a strong reason as to why Lovell never had prayers said for the man after his death.

Lovell’s rise to his majority and then through the political ranks seems almost insignificant. He was a man who came across as emotional, caring deeply about his friends and family and caring little for the turbulent life at court. That is not to say he was not proficient at the duties he was given at court. He showed himself to be extremely skilled in organization and preparation and was heavily relied on by Richard III. In fact, Lovell became Lord Chamberlin for Richard III, a position that required Lovell to be in close contact with the King, to have control over who got to see the king and required a huge amount of trust and loyalty. And loyal Lovell was.

After Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth Lovell continued to prove his loyalty to his king and beloved friend. He sought sanctuary and there he turned down a pardon from Henry VII, giving up his freedom and life in order to seek justice and perhaps revenge for the death of his friend. From here Lovell helped to organize a rebellion, attempted capture of Henry and even an assassination attempt upon the new king.

Lovell played an important part in the uprising of 1487 where John de la Pole, the Earl of Lincoln led an army against Henry VII. History tells us that the rebels were crushed and Lincoln killed but what of Lovell? That perhaps is one of the greatest mysteries in history. After the 16th June 1487, Lovell was not seen again. What happened to him? Where did he go? Why did no one give him up or speak of his whereabouts? All these questions and more Schindler discusses in her book, though I will not give away her findings!

Lovell our Dogge is an absolutely fascinating book about a man often forgot to history. Francis Lovell was a well respected, deeply loved man who was fiercely loyal to his friend and king, Richard III. Although he held no love for political life, he still performed all his duties to the very best of his abilities. He gave up the chance for freedom to seek justice for the wrong he felt committed against his beloved friend and ultimately gave his life for this cause.

Michele Schindler has clearly delved into a huge array of primary sources from the time, not just from England but also from Europe. If there is a mention of Lovell out there I am sure Schindler has read it!

This is a brilliant book. Well written and captivating to read, I highly recommend getting a copy!


A Pauper’s History of England: 1,000 Years of Peasants, Beggars and Guttersnipes

by Peter Stubley

Peter Stubley’s book explores the people on the lowest rung of England’s history from the Doomsday book of 1086, through to the peasant’s revolt of 1831, onto Tudor England and the Victorian age. Peasants, beggars, prostitutes, pickpockets, conmen, the insane and many more are explored through the pages of this fascinating book.

At first glance this book may appear depressing, examining the lives of people who could often not even feed themselves, but the author takes on a different strategy to tell these stories. Instead of delving headfirst into the grime and misery of England’s history, the author acts as a guide, and we the reader are walked through the streets and homes of these vastly different people. The entire book is written as though the reader is on a journey, Stubley our guide, encouraging us to look right at a pickpocket in action or left at a conman selling his wares. We the reader are able to explore different places, poor houses, back streets, asylums and even homes all while sitting in the comfort and safety of our own lives! I thought this was an absolutely fantastic idea as not only is it a different and interesting way to explore history, it also allows the reader not to get bogged down in the heaviness of the subject.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I learnt a great deal about the darker, poorer side of England throughout the centuries as well as the various and evolving poor relief schemes and laws that were created to try and help the destitute. Definitely a must read!


Sir John Tiptoft: ‘Butcher of England’: Earl of Worcester, Edward IV’s Enforcer and Humanist Scholar

By Peter Spring


Eloquently written, unbiased and based on a wealth of primary documents, Peter Spring’s book is a compelling study of the life of Sir John Tiptoft, Earl of Worchester.

From the moment I picked up Spring’s book I was enthralled. Through my readings of the Wars of the Roses I had heard of the famous ‘Butcher of England’, although it was only in passing and to mention the heinous punishments he had enforced upon people. Yet the true man, the John Tiptoft that entered King Henry VI’s service at the mere age of twenty and rose to become quite possibly the second most powerful man in England, has previously been overlooked. Spring brings John Tiptoft’s life to light and shows a very, very different side of this legendary man.

To do so Spring has clearly drawn upon a vast wealth of primary documents, written in several different languages, to gain a true understand of who John Tiptoft was, as both a man at court and a man with a personal life. Spring shows that Tiptoft was a man of extreme intelligence. He rose to prominence through the court of Henry VI. He was devoted to learning and literature and was educated at Oxford University. He was a man of great intellect and had a strong understanding of the English Court. He was highly relied upon by both Henry VI and Edward IV. He acted as Treasurer of England on three separate occasions, became Deputy of Ireland, Constable of the Tower of London and Lord High Constable of England. He was a man known to be fair and kind as well as being able to impose punishments as needed.

He was also a deeply religious man, going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem as well as spending several years in Italy and Venice, furthering his own personal learning and expanding his ever-growing personal library. He was recalled because he was a man in much need and when he was in both Ireland and England, he served Edward IV faithfully.

Yet despite all of this he has gone down in history as the ‘Butcher of England’. Was this title justified? Springs examines in great detail the evidence for and against. Yes, Tiptoft was in charge of several juries that sentenced traitors to death and several of those men were hideously impaled after death. But as Springs reminds the reader, was this any worse than other people of the time? The atrocities of some during the middle ages were nothing less than horrific! Even during the period of the Wars of the Roses the way Tiptoft behaved and conducted himself seems very much on par with a man loyal to his King. Ultimately Spring leaves the question if Tiptoft’s title was deserved or not open, allowing the reader to make up their own mind.

Personally, I found Peter Spring’s book on Sir John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, to be one of the best books that I have ever read that focuses on the period of the Wars of the Roses. It was fascinating and I came away seeing Tiptoft in a completely new light. Carefully written with an emphasis on primary documents, Spring’s book is compelling and eye opening. An absolute must read!


Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses

By David Santiuste

I thoroughly enjoyed David Santiuste’s book on Edward IV. Unlike other books that give an overview of Edward IV’s life, from birth to death and the legacy he left, Santiuste’s book delves in and explores Edward’s life from the deadly Battle of Towton through to his victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury.

The book opens with a brief overview of Edward’s younger years and then moves into exploring the rise of Edward’s father, Richard, Duke of York and his moves to become a claimant of the throne of England. After Richard, Duke of York’s death it is Edward that carried on the claim. At only eighteen years of age Edward was proclaimed King of England after deposing Henry VI. Just weeks later Edward led an army into the famous Battle of Towton. This battle is one of England’s bloodiest with thousands upon thousands of men fighting to their deaths in the freezing snow. Yet Edward IV was able to lead the Yorkist cause to victory.

Santiuste Explore’s Edward’s rule as King of England, the battles he fought against the Lancastrian cause, his capture and also the reinstatement of Henry VI as King which saw Edward flee overseas. The book then moves on to detail Edward’s return to England, the decisions he had to make and how he managed to reclaim the English throne. Towards the end of the book the famous battle of Tewkesbury is detailed and with the tragic death of Henry VI’s son, Edward Prince of Wales, it would seem that Edward’s IV’s throne was secure.

It was fascinating to learn about Edward IV as a King but also a warrior and a leader of men. He is a King often remembered for the latter years of his life, dying young and leaving his son, only twelve years old, as one of the famous Princes in the Tower. Yet in his younger years Edward was a man capable of both forgiveness and anger. He was a leader, able to motivate his men before battle and had the wits and knowledge to lead his army to victory many times. Certainly, he was supported by the famous Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker, but Santiuste shows that Edward VI was a man of action and bravery. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the fascinating period of the Wars of the Roses.