Tudor Book Reviews: The King’s Pearl by Melita Thomas and So High a Blood by Morgan Ring

The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and His Daughter Mary by Melita Thomas

The childhood of Queen Mary I has long been viewed through the perspective of her adolescence and adulthood. As Melita Thomas, observes, Mary was known for centuries as “Bloody Mary” because of the executions of Protestants during her short reign and has recently been rediscovered as “Tragic Mary” because of the devastating impact of the divorce of her parents, King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, on her life. As a result, Mary is viewed as her mother’s daughter and the dynastic marriage negotiations of her childhood are often treated as doomed to failure from the beginning.

In The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and His Daughter Mary, Thomas re-evaluates the relationship between Henry VIII and Mary I, emphasizing Mary’s political and personal significance to her father. The dynastic marriage negotiations of Mary’s childhood are taken seriously as Henry attempted to increase his prominence in European politics by securing prestigious marriage for Mary. Henry’s relations with Catherine’s nephew, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, are particularly well analyzed by Thomas as the prospect of having a grandson who would rule most of Europe seemed to reconcile Henry to the prospect of a female heir.

Thomas makes clear that popular opinion within England and the rest of Europe deemed Mary to be Henry’s heir until the birth of a younger brother, despite the efforts of Henry and Anne Boleyn to assert their daughter’s Elizabeth’s seniority in the succession through the Act of Supremacy. After Anne’s execution, there were doubts concerning whether Henry would have subsequent children with his third wife, Jane Seymour. Mary therefore remained politically significant event after she had been declared illegitimate.

Thomas devotes less attention to the personal bond between Henry and Mary beyond their shared love of music, gardens and courtly display as well as willingness to take risks to achieve their political ambitions but this imbalance reflects the available source material. There is more evidence of Mary’s personal relations with her successive stepmothers from her antipathy toward Anne Boleyn to her warm friendship with Katherine Parr. Mary’s determination to be an active rather than passive participant in Tudor politics is evident throughout the book. The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and His Daughter Mary is an interesting and well researched counterpoint to prevailing image of Mary I as a “Bloody” or “Tragic” figure. Like her half-siblings, Elizabeth I and Edward VI, she was a child of Henry VIII and his influence had a lifelong impact on her politics and personality.

So High a Blood: The Story of Margaret Douglas, the Tudor that Time Forgot by Morgan Ring

One of Queen Mary I’s closest friends was her Scottish cousin Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of King Henry VIII’s sister Margaret Tudor and her second husband Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. Margaret Douglas was a prominent figure at the Tudor court during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. Through her grandson, King James VI of Scotland/James I of England, she is an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II. Despite her importance during the sixteenth century and the dramatic circumstances of her life – she was imprisoned in the Tower of London on more than one occasion – Margaret Douglas is little known today. Her long residence at the Tudor court resulted in her being marginalized in histories of sixteenth century Scotland while her Scottish ancestry meant that she received little attention in histories of England during the same period.

In So High a Blood: The Story of Margaret Douglas, the Tudor that Time Forgot, Morgan Ring presents Margaret Douglas a strong and adaptable personality, a key figure in the religious and political upheaval of Elizabeth I’s reign and a consummate survivor. Margaret enjoyed the rare ability of reconciling with Henry VIII after incurring his displeasure on more than one occasion because of her romances with members of the Howard family. The exclusion of the Scottish line from Henry VIII’s will, however, suggests that they were in conflict at the time of his death and Ring provides a convincing analysis of these circumstances in her book.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, Margaret, a devout Roman Catholic who had enjoyed a close friendship with Mary I, opposed the Queen’s Protestant religious settlement. Margaret also favoured the marriage of her elder son, Lord Darnley, to Mary, Queen of Scots in opposition to Queen Elizabeth I’s wishes. After Darnley’s death, Margaret blamed Mary, Queen of Scots and enjoyed an improved relationship with Elizabeth that lasted until Margaret’s younger son married without the Queen’s permission. As the mother of two sons who survived to adulthood (a circumstance that was rare among the Tudors) and then as the grandmother of the King of Scotland, Margaret was an important political figure throughout Elizabeth I’s reign. Ring restores a little known member of the Tudor dynasty to her rightful place in sixteenth century history.

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New Canadian Encyclopedia Article: John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen

The Earl of Aberdeen

My latest article in the Canadian Encyclopedia is about the Earl of Aberdeen, Governor General of Canada from 1893 to 1898.

As governor general, the Earl of Aberdeen and his wife, Lady Aberdeen, focused on social welfare and engaging with Canadians of various backgrounds and cultures, setting precedents for the philanthropic initiatives of future governors general. Aberdeen also owned an estate in the Okanagan Valley and pioneered commercial fruit growing in the region.

Click here to read my article about the Earl of Aberdeen

Click here to read my article about Lady Aberdeen

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National Post Interview: What does the governor general do all day? A National Post investigation

Lord Dufferin

I discussed the history of the role of the Governor General of Canada with the National Post. In contrast to the United Kingdom, where the Prime Minister and the Queen meet on a weekly basis, there is no set precedent in Canada for regular meetings between the Prime Minister and Governor General. As explained in the National Post:

“However, prime ministers and governors general might become best friends anyway. Royal historian Carolyn Harris told the National Post that Sir John A. Macdonald and Lord Dufferin were so close that Macdonald became godfather to the governor general’s son.”

Click here to read “What does the governor general do all day? A National Post investigation” 

Click here to read my article on Lord Dufferin in the Canadian Encyclopedia

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Global News Interview: How Meghan Markle has broken almost every rule for royal girlfriends

I discussed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with Global News. The couple, who appeared in the public together for the first time this week at the Invictus Games in Toronto, are conducting their relationship on their own terms, breaking from longstanding traditions concerning royal courtships, engagements and marriages.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been so open about the fact that they are dating, and have spoken about their relationship in this way,” noted Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal historian and author of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting“(They) are conducting this relationship on their own terms.”

Click here to read “How Meghan Markle has broken almost every rule for royal girlfriends” at Global News

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Canadian Press Interview: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle make first official public appearance together

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Invictus Games (Photo Credit: The Canadian Press)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attended the Invictus Games wheelchair tennis event at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on September 24, their first official appearance together. I discussed the significance of this event with the Canadian Press. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.

“Some royal watchers had earlier suggested the couple would hold off on a public appearance together for fear of stealing the spotlight away from the Games, but Harris said their presence has, in fact, brought more attention to the event.

She said it is interesting that they chose to attend wheelchair tennis together, noting that tennis courts have been “the setting for royal events since the Middle Ages.”

Click here to read “Prince Harry, Meghan Markle make first official public appearance together”

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Canadian Press Interview: Attention intensifies around Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Invictus Games

Meghan Markle

I discussed Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and the history of royal engagements and marriages with the Canadian Press.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“Harris says the modernity of Harry and Markle’s relationship is another factor that makes them interesting to the public.

“When we look at previous generations in the Royal Family, often the courtship was comparatively short before an engagement,” she says. “Charles and Diana, for instance, spent very little time together before becoming engaged. But in William and Harry’s generation, that has changed.”

Click here to read the full article: Attention intensifies around Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Invictus Games

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New Canadian Encyclopedia Article: Lord Dufferin

Lord Dufferin

My latest article in the Canadian Encyclopedia is about Lord Dufferin, Governor General of Canada from 1872 to 1878.

Dufferin and his wife, Lady Dufferin, were the first viceregal couple since Confederation to become prominent figures in Canadian society, touring all provinces and meeting with Canadians from a wide variety of regions and social backgrounds. Dufferin set key precedents for future Governors General with his extensive travel and granting of academic and athletic honours to Canadians.

Click here to read my article about Lord Dufferin the Canadian Encyclopedia

I have also written article for the Canadian Encyclopedia about Lady Dufferin, which is available here.

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New Canadian Encyclopedia Article: Alexander Cambridge, Earl of Athlone

The Earl of Athlone (seated right) with the Allied leaders at the Quebec Conferences.

My new article in the Canadian Encyclopedia is about Alexander Cambridge, Earl of Athlone, Governor General of Canada from 1940 to 1946.

Athlone served as Governor General during the Second World War and hosted the Québec Conferences at La Citadelle in 1943 and 1944, where Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt met to decide Allied strategy for victory over Germany and Japan. A maternal uncle of King George VI, Athlone was the last close relative of the monarch to serve as Governor General of Canada.

Click here to read my article about Alexander Cambridge, Earl of Athlone

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My October-November 2017 course at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies: Women In Power

“Boadicea Haranguing the Britons” by John Opie

In the Fall of 2017, I will be teaching an eight week course about the history of Women in Power at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. Click here for more information and to register:

Time and Date:

03 Oct 2017 – 21 Nov 2017 
Tuesdays 
7:00PM – 9:00PM

Course Description:

Powerful women have presented themselves as warrior queens, rulers by divine right, wives and mothers and, most recently, as elected officials. We’ll examine the most significant female political figures in history, including Boadicea, Queen Isabella, Queen Elizabeth I, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton. Through lively lectures and discussions, you’ll learn the story of women in political life. Why are women still underrepresented in political life? Join Carolyn Harris for a fascinating look at the often-neglected place of women in power from Cleopatra to Angela Merkel.

Learning Outcomes:

 

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New Canadian Encyclopedia Article: John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, Marquess of Lorne

John Campbell, , Marquess of Lorne

My latest article in the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia is about the Marquess of Lorne, Governor General of Canada from 1878 to 1883.

As Governor General, Lorne founded the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the National Gallery of Canada and undertook extensive tours of western Canada, proposing the names Alberta and Lake Louise in honour of his wife, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta. Lorne’s patronage of Canadian artists set precedents for future Governors General and his books promoted Canadian landscapes, culture and history to a wide international audience.

Click here to read my article on John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, Marquess of Lorne in the Canadian Encyclopedia.

I have also written articles about the Marquess of Lorne’s wife, Princess Louise and mother-in-law, Queen Victoria in the Canadian Encyclopedia.

For more about the Marquess of Lorne, Princess Louise and their reception in Canada, read my chapter “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown” in Canada and the Crown: Essays on Constitutional Monarchy

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