» Bosworth: The Rise of the Tudors
» Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart
» Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore

Bosworth: The Rise of the Tudors by Chris Skidmore

Dan Jones delves into the bloody birth of the Tudor dynasty, recorded in a fine, scholarly and elegantly written new book.
Dan Jones - The Telegraph, 6th July 2013

To unpick the story of Bosworth, Skidmore delves far into the histories of both the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor family. His book begins nearly 60 years before Henry VII's coronation: in the late 1420s, when the widowed Queen of England, Katherine de Valois, secretly took up with the Welsh squire Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur (aka Owen Tudor), bearing him several children and spawning a line of French-Welsh half-bloods whose root talent would prove to be survival. The heir to this line would be Owen and Katherine's grandson, Henry Tudor, whose life was defined by the civil wars of the 15th century, which had already begun by the time of his birth in Pembroke Castle in 1457. Read the full review here

Chris Skidmore's Bosworth could scarcely have been published at a better moment, and it is just the right book for all those whose interest has been piqued by the archaeology.
Leanda de Lisle - The Spectator, May 2013

For admirers of Richard III, including all those who were convinced that tales of his twisted spine was Tudor propaganda, there is little comfort in Skidmore's narrative. He expresses few doubts that Richard did away with his young nephews, the Princes in the Tower, in 1483. Nor does one warm to a king with henchmen like 'the black knight', who, tradition has it, punished offenders by rolling them downhill in spiked barrels. According to Skidmore, by the summer of 1485, Richard was haemorrhaging support so badly that even the servant who had dressed the king for his coronation abandoned him. Even so, England was not simply there for the taking by the obscure Henry Tudor. Read the full review here

The news of Richard's resurrection could not have been better timed for historian and Tory MP Chris Skidmore, who was just completing this absorbing and beautifully illustrated study of the battle and of the fiendishly complex yet grimly fascinating Wars of the Roses.
Nigel Jones - The Express, May 2013

Chris Skidmore is a well-informed and dispassionate guide through the astounding switchback turns of fortune's wheel that bought Henry the crown, reputedly found in a thornbush on the battlefield and set on his head by one of those who had deserted Richard and turned the tide of battle. Read the full review here

Skidmore's narrative style is engaging, and he sets out fair arguments for both sides when this is called for.

The book includes a generous selection of colour plates and a very exhaustive bibliography. I think both the student of this period and the first-time reader would gain a lot of knowledge and enjoyment from this book. Read the full review here

Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart by Chris Skidmore

There is much to admire in a fresh examination of an enduring conundrum says Sarah Gristwood
Sarah Gristwood - The Guardian, Saturday 17 April 2010

The death of Amy Robsart has always been one of history's favourite whodunits, a lure for fictional writers from Sir Walter Scott to Philippa Gregory. Months after Elizabeth I acceded to the throne at the end of 1558, ambassadors were reporting her fondness for Robert Dudley, her new Master of the Horse. They declared the queen was preparing to marry Dudley, despite the fact that he was already married to Robsart. When, less than two years into the reign, his wife was found dead at the bottom of a staircase, suspicion was bound to alight on Dudley, and the scandal made a royal marriage out of the question. To many the jury has remained out until this day. Now the historian Chris Skidmore offers a detailed examination of evidence old and, crucially, new – and, along the way, a riveting exemplar of the degree to which it is, and is not, possible to solve a historical mystery. Read full review here or visit The Guardian's review page

IT MUST have been a wonderful sight, Elizabeth I journeying around the kingdom.
Roger Lewis - Daily Express, Friday 30th April 2010

There were 2,500 packhorses carrying the luggage and Master of the Horse was Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Dudley was Her Majesty’s favourite.

“Through a mixture of charm, wit and flattery,” says Chris Skidmore in this rich tapestry of a book, “Dudley was able to bring out a lighter side in Elizabeth at times when the burdens of state became tedious and depressing.” Read the full review here or visit the Express website

The enduring first love that changed our history
This new book on Elizabeth I reads more like a murder mystery than a historical work, says John Hinton
John Hinton - The Catholic Herald, Friday 9 April 2010

The curiosity which drives historians to trawl though dusty archives is repaid in academic satisfaction, and often elusive recognition, when they can shed more light on a question which has fascinated people for centuries. And this is certainly the case with this new book by Chris Skidmore. For in his new study we uncover the mystery of why Elizabeth I – an outstanding monarch in so many ways – never married and chose to remain a “virgin” queen. Read the full review here or visit The Catholic Herald Website

Portrait of Amy 
Robsart, Lady Dudley (1532-60) (oil on canvas) by English School, (16th 
century)Times Online

A brilliant study of the greatest unsolved Tudor mystery — the suspicious death of Amy Robsart, the wife of the only man Elizabeth I ever loved

- March 14, 2010

Amy Robsart’s unexplained death at the age of 28 is the greatest unsolved Tudor mystery. Married at 17 to Lord Robert Dudley, she was found lying at the foot of a stone spiral staircase on September 8, 1560, while lodged at Cumnor Place, near Oxford. Her neck was broken, her headdress curiously intact. Was it an accident? Did Amy commit suicide? Or was she murdered to clear the way for Dudley, Elizabeth I’s childhood friend and lifelong favourite, to marry the queen?

London had long been ablaze with rumours about Dudley and Elizabeth. Dudley, said the Spanish ambassador, “does whatever he likes with affairs, and it is even said that her Majesty visits him in his chamber day and night”. Elizabeth would only listen to Dudley and had kissed him in public. It was said that Amy had been ill, and that Dudley had tried to poison her.

Death and the Virgin is a meticulous account of Amy’s death and its aftermath. Skidmore writes brilliantly and his research is impeccable. He refuses to rely on the Victorian printed abstracts of Tudor documents that so often omit large chunks of the material, and insists on returning to the archives. He rules out suicide on the grounds that Amy, despite sending her servants to a fair on the day of her death, was expecting a visit from her husband shortly and had sent a fresh order to her dressmaker.

Skidmore suspects foul play, because the coroner’s report, a dramatic new discovery published here for the first time, shows that Amy had two serious head wounds, one of them two inches deep. Although the sharp edges of stone stair treads could be lethal and the coroner’s jury reached a verdict of accidental death, Skidmore’s sleuthing reveals that the foreman, Sir Richard Smith, had once been Elizabeth’s servant; that Dudley knew another juror personally; and that Thomas Blount, his agent, dined with two more jurors before they reached their verdict.

After several thrilling plot twists, everything boils down to the reliability of two seemingly independent sources. In 1584, a notorious Catholic lampoon called Leicester’s Commonwealth — for in 1564 Elizabeth created her favourite Earl of Leicester — claimed that a servant of Dudley’s henchman, Sir Richard Verney, had murdered Amy. This echoes an identical charge made by John Hales, who kept a secret political diary before 1563. But Hales had no inside information. He didn’t even recognise Dudley when he met him one day in the street. Alas for Skidmore, both sources repeat common gossip. Verney certainly knew Amy, since she’d stayed at his house in Warwickshire in 1559. Maybe he had been sent to steer her towards a divorce and ended up murdering her? But this is speculation and no intruder was spotted at Cumnor Place that day.

Skidmore wisely ends on a cautious note, telling us that he seeks to explore all possible clues, but “clues they must remain”. Since Dudley strained every nerve to discover the true cause of Amy’s death in an effort to save his reputation, few readers will conclude there was a murder plot. Most, however, will agree with Skidmore that Amy was treated shamefully. When she died, her husband hadn’t visited her for over a year, and on his few previous visits (according to Hales), he was commanded by Elizabeth to go dressed in black and “to say [on his return] that he did nothing with her”.

The lasting significance of the scandal is that Elizabeth would become the Virgin Queen: she couldn’t marry the only man she ever really loved and keep her throne. The tragedy is that, even had Amy lived, in Elizabeth’s eyes and Dudley’s, she was dead already.

Death and the Virgin Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart by Chris Skidmore
Weidenfeld £20 pp430

Available at the Bookshop price of £18 (including p&p) on 0845 271 2135
Buy the book here

Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore

346pp, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20

Reigning in vain The Guardian, Saturday 13 January 2007
Hilary Mantel enjoys Chris Skidmore's scholarly account of the brief life of Edward VI

Our stereotype Tudors are set in stone: Henry VII is a desiccated calculating machine, his son a syphilitic roaring boy. Mary is a hysterical sadist; Elizabeth is a minx who ages into a pantomime dame. Between them, like a trick of the light, slides the spindly form of Edward, king at nine, dead at 16. Read full review


Struggling for the soul of England Daily Telegraph 04 Feb 2007
Jessie Childs reviews Edward VI: the Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore

There is a wonderful illustration in Chris Skidmore's biography of Edward VI of the future king at 14 months. He has the chubby, rosy cheeks of an infant, but is dressed in expensive adult clothes. His left hand holds a rattle that resembles a sceptre and his right is raised as if in blessing. Just to drum in the message, a scroll of text accompanies the portrait, calling on Edward to "emulate thy father and be the heir of his virtue". Read full review

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