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Book Review – The Hollow Crown/The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones

Sorry I’ve been missing folks! It comes with good reasons!
This is a review of a book I’m adding to my list right now, thanks to his synopsis!

By Nathen Amin

The Wars of the Roses is a period of English history that is very much in vogue at the moment, a situation undoubtedly bolstered by the Wars’ inclusion in a plethora of recent historical fiction releases by various preeminent authors. Their entertaining, if often disturbingly inaccurate, portrayal of the epic fifteenth century tussle for the crown has satisfyingly been equalled by a variety of releases by academic historians putting forward the ‘true’ story. Dan Jones’ new release ‘The Hollow Crown’ (published as ‘The Wars of the Roses’ in the US) is the latest welcome addition to this field.

As the best-selling author of the critically-acclaimed ‘The Plantagenets’, Dan Jones’ latest effort can be considered a natural sequel to his previous work. The Wars of the Roses were a complex and confusing period in English history and Jones succeeds in simplifying the conflict without omitting any detail detrimental…

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The Lincoln Roll – the Princes’ Death Certificate?

Interesting evidence in the mystery of what happened to the “Princes in the Tower.” I hadn’t thought to look at the Lincoln Roll in such a way!

By David Durose

The Lincoln Roll – the Princes’ Death Certificate?

This article is about the family tree that belonged to John de la Pole, the Earl of Lincoln and what it says about the fate of the so-called Princes in the Tower – Edward V and his young brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. It provides an approximate date for the death of Edward V and disproves the idea that either of the Princes might have survived. It also puts the actions of Lincoln, his younger brothers and Margaret of Burgundy in a new perspective.

While this new evidence supports the ‘traditional’ view held by most historians that Richard III ordered the killing of his nephews, it also completely revises the narrative provided by the various contemporary chroniclers and Thomas More. It supports a view of Lincoln – and by extension, his uncle Richard III – as ruthless…

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Henry VII, the King Maligned as a Miser

This is one topic I want to squash, especially because of the upcoming “White Princess” TV show. Did Elizabeth of York have to repair dresses instead of purchasing new ones? Yes, and so did every queen! The amount of time, labor and expense in a woman’s dress, especially a queen’s dress, was massive. Getting a hole or a stain, or having a seam give and repairing it was commonplace, not throwing it out as some do today. He donated money to charities and colleges, commissioned great building projects, invested his personal income into the trades. Because he didn’t squander his wealth we are to believe he’s a bad king? Come on now…

By Nathen Amin

History has not been kind to Henry VII of England. The first Tudor king has often suffered from long-held accusations that he was a dark and greedy monarch, a man of such a suspicious disposition that his reign was a tyrannical period for England centred on the King’s grasping nature.

It could be argued that the one adjective used more than any other when describing Henry Tudor is ‘miser’. One needs to only witness the character assassination that accompanied the recent documentary ‘The Winter King’ by historian Tom Penn to understand this phenomenon. Amongst a plethora of speculative descriptions of the king in this overwhelmingly negative portrayal was “terrifying”. Penn further stated that Henry utilised ruthless methods to control England, whilst ‘money was dearest to his heart’. Are such accusations justified? It would appear by referring to the sources that the prevailing attitude of many historians, both…

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Game of Thrones and English History

To mark the occasion of the season 4 premier of HBO’s Game of Thrones, I have decided to write down some of the general comparisons of the plot with English medieval society and history.

Game of Thrones is an awesome television show, based off of books written by George R. R. Martin, which my husband tells me are awesome (he has read them multiple times; I have not). The characters stir up emotion in the audience. You cry for the characters you like when they are killed and hate the evil characters with a fiery passion. With dragons, magic and living dead people the show is soundly in the realm of fantasy fiction. But there are hints of actual history alive in the show.

When the show opens, the first things we are treated to is the map of Westeros, a fictional country bordered on three sides with ocean and to the north with ice. The map itself is very similar to the map of the English Isle, if you remove the North, though Westeros seems to be much, much bigger. The Wall, where the men of the Night’s Watch protect the south from enemies coming down from the north, is similar to the boarder with Scotland, where for several hundred years skirmishes and battles broke out to keep the Scots from invading England, and vice-a-versa. London is located where King’s Landing is. The Isle of Mann is located where the Iron Islands are. Even the English Channel is similar to “The Narrow Sea,” and the cities where Daenerys Targaryen travels remind me of the different duchy’s of France, though the culture and language are more like the Middle East.

In Westeros each noble house is easily identified by their “sigil,” a badge worn on clothes or held as banners, which makes all the “bannermen” easily identifiable. They are easy to compare with both coats of arms and medieval banners. Even the sigil animals are similar to those used in Britain. England is a Lion, since the first Plantagenet king Henry II, while Scotland is a unicorn and Wales is Dragon. Edward IV used a sun, Richard III used a boar, Richard II was a stag. Stags, wolves, dragons, lions, and more animals are seen in Westeros. The “bannermen” are the lords who are sworn to uphold another lord’s cause in times of war, which is exactly what English nobles were expected to do throughout the medieval period.

While watching the show it is easy to see how the armor and fashion which are taking their cues from medieval England, as is the food, boats and litter carriages. The only character which wears clothing in a more modern style is Margaery Tyrell, as it is way too revealing and even Cersei Lannister complains about it showing too much skin. The citizens of Westeros have the same entertainments and work as medieval society, such as needlepoint, music and tournaments. They engage in warfare that is exactly like what was around during the medieval period, except without the “wild fire” that killed so many at the “Battle of the Blackwater.”

Most characters have a version of the English accent, some with an Irish or Scottish twang to it, and in the case of the beautiful, red-headed Wildling soldier Ygritte, my husband just informed me that my guess that she was using a Yorkshire accent was correct. Listening to the actual accents of the actors in interviews is enlightening, especially in regards to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays Jaime Lannister, because even though you hear no hint of it when he is acting, he is actually Dutch and talks with a strong Dutch accent when he is being himself. There are other accents of course, such as the German accent of Shay, Sansa Stark’s maid and Tyrion Lannister’s lover, as she is an immigrant to Westeros. Much like London, the highest variety of accents is in King’s Landing, because it’s a bastion of trade, immigration and class distinctions.

King Robert’s Rebellion mirrors the rebellion of Henry IV against Richard II, and the current warfare Westeros is going through is very similar to the Wars of the Roses. While Henry VI was not as unpopular, distanced and hated by the people as Joffrey, Rob Stark, the “King of the North,” is very similar to Edward IV, a younger man fighting because his father was killed (though in battle, not execution) and he believes he is the rightful king. Balon Greyjoy had called himself the “king of the Iron Islands,” and prior to 1485 the Stanley family had been the Kings of the Isle of Mann, with Thomas Stanley downgrading the honor to “Lord of Mann” so as not to offend his stepson, King Henry VII. In England there were fewer sides, but there were many battles and the interchanging of nobles, titles and the throne.

I am not sure how much of these similarities are intentional, but the more I start to ponder the more I find. Have you seen any that I have missed in this post? Please leave a comment and let me know!

If you haven’t seen Game of Thrones yet I urge you to give it a try. There is a reason it is so wildly popular, even though it’s a costumed drama that has no problem killing off its main characters and is heavy in both violence and sex. That’s because the plots, the characters, the sets, the special effects, the romance and the drama are unmatched. It airs on Sunday nights at 9pm EST, on HBO. If you can, watch it in HD because the costumes, sets and and visual textures can be missed in standard definition.

The show is based on a series of books, collectively known as “A Song of Ice and Fire,” written by George R. R. Martin. Five are currently available in bookstores, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance for Dragons. There are two more novels to still be written and released. The show is currently midway through the third book. We should be seeing several more seasons before we learn who will finally sit on the Iron Throne.

You can purchase the books on Amazon.

For more information, please check out A Wiki of Ice and Fire.


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Introducing Henry VIII!


On December 3rd, 2013, my husband and I had to put our mini-dachshund to sleep. She had become very sick very fast, and we tried very hard to save her, but her body just gave up. It was one of the hardest moments of my life, to see this little girl who trusted us implicitly and loved us so completely disappear.

This has hit us very hard, both physically and emotionally. 

A week ago my husband started looking at puppies online. He was ready for another, saying that our family is “five members, not four.” I was less than thrilled. We had spent a lot of money trying to save our dog, and I was looking forward to putting our financial lives back in order. I was also liking that our cats required less responsibility from us than a dog did. They didn’t need to go outside. They didn’t want to play as much, though both of them do play fetch. I kept food in their bowl, water in their bowl, and cleaned their litter once a day. I enjoyed the simplicity.

My husband first liked a little female puppy at one rescue group, but when we went to see it, they had already adopted it out. He went home and found another little puppy, but this one was a boy. My husband put all of his hopes into this puppy, and I rushed through all of the adoption steps so that we could see him before he was snatched up. 3 days later we welcomed this little guy into our family.

How does this relate to English history? To sweeten the deal my husband let me name him. What name did I come up with? The one I first put forward as a joke: Henry. Specifically Henry VIII, King of England, Ireland and France. When discussing any baby names, I always put Henry forward and my husband always shot it down. But for a dog? I didn’t know if he would agree, but in the end because of his desire to adopt this puppy he gave me this little concession: Our puppy would be Henry. And I am very pleased. 

The name fits him. Though his is an American Bulldog mix, he has a very regal appearance, and is very cleaver and learns very fast. 

But why the 8th Henry instead of the 7th, since that’s the one I study? Because here in America telling everyone that he is named after King Henry VII of England would create blank stares from anyone who doesn’t know of my obsession. Henry VIII is someone that almost everyone knows about, at least that he was an English king and that he put several wives to death. I won’t receive as many blank stares if he’s the 8th Henry.

If you’d live in the Northeastern US and would like to adopt a dog, please give the pups at Angel Capone Pitbull Rescue a chance. If a pitbull isn’t what you’re looking for, they have dogs of all different breeds available for adoption. 

He is a wonderful dog. And he looks like a Henry, don’t you think? (This picture was taken by AC Rescue in December 2013.)Image


Please check back soon. Now that life is settling down again, I will be returning to my reviews, comparisons and essays. I have one that I am currently working on which discusses the life of Sir Roland de Veleville, which I should be publishing soon.

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Happy Holidays

To my readers:

I apologize for not posting any new essays for you to read this last month. Our house suffered several losses and it has been hard to overcome. I have several essays that were in the works, and I hope to return in the new year to give you more interesting things to read.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.


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Does Fiction Impact Fact?

“It’s just a show!”

…Or just a movie, or just a book.

How many of us critics of historical fiction- in books, TV or movies- have had these words spoken to us? Probably everyone. We are told that since it’s meant to entertain not to educate, there should be no standard for content. “It’s only fiction.”

How soon until the alterations become “fact” in the minds of the consumers of such entertainment? And will it become a case of “common knowledge” in the future? This is the danger of twisting history around, for entertainment’s sake. Is it fun to watch or read? Of course! But at what cost?

Many readers/viewers turn from the stories into the history, and as a writer that should be the second goal (the first being to produce something of value through excellent writing). When I first read Katherine, by Anya Seton, I rushed to learn as much as I could about the life of the actual Duchess Katherine Swynford and her family. I was so excited when Alison Weir wrote her book, Mistress of the Monarchy, about the truth of Katherine’s life that I purchased it the day it was released. It not only gave me a concise and easy reference, some of the information I had been unable to locate independently was included in Weir’s book. The fictional accounts- books, television shows or movies- should encourage the reader/viewer to seek out the truth. This is best served in books by including Author’s Notes and bibliographies. It is worse served by foot-stomping “THIS IS THE TRUTH!”

Fifty years ago most of these books did not contain bibliographies. Historical fiction was often lumped in with romance, and as such I don’t believe the publishers ever expected them to be taken seriously. Most historical novels have the very attractive elements of romantic intrigue in them. We may not be sure of the day-to-day lives of the people we are interested in, but we have records of their marriages, children, and battles, which all work excellently to move the plot along. These torrid love stories were associated with the bored imagining of unhappy housewives looking for an escape from their lives. While these books gave their readers a smart form of entertainment, they remained very much part of the landscape of fiction.

I have been reading The Dragon and the Rose, by Roberta Gellis, which is a good example of the connection of romance to historical fiction. My 1977 edition surprised me because it was published by Playboy Books– a now-defunct division of Playboy Magazine. There is nothing in the book to explain the differences between the known historical documents and the author’s inspiration, but being so solidly included in a section of the book store with “bodice-rippers” meant that nobody would believe it ever actually happened, or would try to quote it as fact.

Today most historical novels are included soundly in the regular fiction section, and they have their own genre of TV shows and movies. They span anywhere from ancient Egypt to the events of the 20th century. Writing these stories still requires research of some kind. At a minimum, the author needs to read at least a handful of texts, because nobody can elaborate on something they have no education in. To get into the mud of the Wars of the Roses, I have stocked my library with as many books as I can (and still adding books today, especially delighting in the rarer volumes I have found), read countless articles both in historical journals and by other writers online, studied maps and genealogy tables, watched countless documentaries and lectures that are available, and immersed myself in the works of other fiction writers that take place either in the same time or with the same people. It is my job to make my work as close to the known facts as I can, and to explain when I don’t stick with the facts or when the facts are not known. I am trying to remain first and foremost a student of history, but I will be the first to admit that I have made many choices because they improved my plot or because of my personal belief, and as such do not constitute historical fact.

When historical fiction begins to cross the line into “near fact,” it often does so with no distinction between the writer’s imagination and the information contained in documents. The combination of these writings and an under-educated audience produces an environment where historians are “schooled” by these readers. This phenomenon is especially common online, where we can anonymously argue talking points with unknown posters. As much as I try to tell myself to get up and stop typing when I come across comments and posts like those, sometimes I can’t help but try to explain the reality. One person recently told me that “the Earl of Warwick was a horrible man who was responsible for so many deaths that I can’t believe you think he should have been king!” Upon probing, it became clear that this person had no knowledge of George of Clarence’s son Edward, the 17th Earl of Warwick who inherited the title from his executed father, and was eventually executed himself in 1499 by Henry VII for attempted support of Perkin Warbeck. This person claimed to have read “all of Philippa Gregory’s books” and therefore they claimed to be “educated” on the topic.

I have heard from countless other bloggers about the surge of people on their sites talking about how “Margaret Beaufort was a lunatic zealot who plotted and prayed for her son, Henry Tudor, to be king from the moment he was born, and was the one who ordered the deaths of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ to clear the way for him!” Anyone who has done even minor research on Margaret knows that this is just not true. Posters like these do not want to hear that, because once they have it in their heads that she was such a crazy monster they won’t hear of anything else.

When an audience who has not had formal education in Historical Inquiry is told time and time again that a work of fiction is so close to the truth that everything except the conversations is a documented fact, how are they to tell the difference?

This is why I am writing this blog.


What are your experiences in historical fiction/drama? What author’s works have you enjoyed, and what has made your hair stand on edge? What have you learned from historical books, TV and movies? What has attracted you so much that you grabbed as much information from non-fictional sources when you were finished reading/viewing? I look forward to hearing about your choices!


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Welcome to the Anti-White Queen Blog!

Historical dramas- and historical fiction- are always fun. The costumes! The hair! The sets! They are a beauty to watch and make us feel like we have stepped into their world, a fly on the wall to past intimate moments.

This is the flaw in imagining the past. There was no fly on the wall. We may have accounts from eavesdroppers, but they are few and far between. The farther back we look, the less actual information we have. Most of what remains is household account books. Personal letters and journals of contemporary chroniclers are rarer. We can use contemporary or slightly-after literary works to catch a glimpse of what their attitudes and opinions were. For example Shakespeare’s plays give us insight into the popular opinion of the late Tudor court.

A writer who claims that what they create is the perfect truth is lying, or has an ego too large to admit to themselves that they’re perspective is just that-theirs. It may temporarily gain an audience, but the harm they do to actual historical research is long-reaching, as such opinion-as-fact can last a generation after its conception.

I love fictionalized history. As a child and a teen I read stories of made-up courtiers in Elizabeth I’s court. When the movies “Dangerous Beauty,” and “Elizabeth I” came out when I was in high school, I ran to the theater and became obsessed with the fashions, watching them over and over again when they came out on video.  In my early 20s I learned of Katherine Swynford through Anya Seton’s work; as flawed as it was, it remains one of my favorite books today. Philippa Gregory, Suzannah Dunn, Jean Plaidy, Posie Graeme-Evans – I read as much as I could. The fictional work of Alison Weir I devoured like candy. These fictional works grabbed my interest so much that I signed up for Tudor-Stewart England in college. Learning a little of the real history turned my interest away from Egypt and ancient history, so that I became ravenously obsessed with the history of England. Each new novel encouraged me to read actual texts on the subjects, and my mind quickly compared the stories to the truth.

This is the aim of this blog. I wish to dissect our modern fictional accounts, to search and report on the known history. Some will be easy for me- I already do this with, say, “The Tudors” or “White Queen,” but there are many more fictional accounts out there, both books and films as well as television. Some of what I do will be reviews, some will be comparison and others will be contrasts. I hope to entertain, but also to encourage audiences to start researching for themselves.

About me:

It may be surprising to learn that I actually an American. Here in the U.S. we are discouraged from focusing on Medieval and Renaissance British history, as there are very limited job opportunities in academia for us. As my obsession can’t be quenched, I am bucking academic expectations and following my heart to study and focus on what inspires me.

I am currently finishing my Bachelors in World History at Arizona State University, and have an Associates degree in Visual and Performing Arts-Music Concentration. Though I am disabled from a neurological problem, I continue to play and teach the violin as much as I can, and I make rosaries which I sell online through Etsy. I live in Connecticut with my husband, two cats named Prima and Stormy, and a dog named Juliet. I am working on a novel about Henry VII’s time in exile from 1471 to 1485, in my available time.

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