The top 10 questions I would love to ask historical figures

Most of the blog so far has been pretty heavy.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s kind of the point.  I need an outlet for my intense musings on the big questions and love discussing such epic matters with others.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun as well.  To that effect, I’ve compiled a list of 10 questions I would love to put to our Royal forebears but, sadly will never be able to.

Here we go:

Elizabeth I – “You were the virgin Queen – I get that.  But what does that actually mean…?”

Richard III – “Come on now…own up.  How close to the truth was Thomas More?”

Queen Anne – “If you knew you were going to be the last monarch to veto an act of Parliament, would you have vetoed a few more?”

Katherine Parr – “Was Seymour worth the wait?”

Mary I – “In hindsight, might it have been worth taking a chill pill?”

Henry VIII – “Catherine Howard.  Adultery.  How did you not see that one coming?”

Margaret Beaufort – “Did you really have a vision telling you to marry Edmund Tudor?”

Princess Beatrice – “What was the juiciest  thing you cut out of Queen Victoria’s diary?”

Henry VI – “Do you think Edward was your boy?”

Richard II – “Seriously.  Dude.  What happened there?”

Okay geeks over to you…what questions would YOU like to put to the Royals of Britain’s past.

Book review: David Starkey – Elizabeth: Apprenticeship

Elizabeth apprentecship

Everyone knows the epic stories of Elizabeth I.  The lioness who secured the greatest English military victory since Agincourt; the woman who struggled to put her plotting cousin to death; the iconic matriarch who would achieve cult status in her own lifetime but leave behind no child to secure her legacy.

But little did I know how it was probably the earliest years of her life that were for her personally, by far the most dramatic.  Thanks to this excellent biography by David Starkey, my eyes were opened.

The story – for indeed it reads with the ease of a story book without any compromising of detail – begins with Elizabeth’s birth and a sense of disappointment.  She was supposed to be a boy – no one had use for a princess.  And throughout the book there is a sense that for the first 25 years of her life she is a person who never quite fits in and is something of an inconvenience for everyone: the royal bastard with questionable status; the step-daughter who endangers her guardian’s marriage; the heir-presumptive who is stubbornly the wrong religion.

David Starkey cleverly illustrates how these early struggles shape the character that would one day emerge as the great Gloriana.  A calculated strategist who knew how to adapt and survive and a pragmatist that was never wedded to philosophy or ideology.

From the fall-out of the Seymour affair to plots made against her sister in Elizabeth’s name, Starkey paints the picture of danger that Elizabeth lived through and creates a raw sense of just how many bullets she had to dodge.  Despite actually knowing how the story ends, such is the power of storytelling that there are moments when you anxiously wonder whether the auburn-haired Princess is ever going to make it to the throne.

Elizabeth’s early relationships are also fascinating – her mixed intimacy with her sibling, her fierce loyalty to the servants that raised her, her early encounter with sexuality.  The author brings each of these to life with colour and zest.  Finally the book concludes with Elizabeth’s ascension – something that even then seems less like a great victory and more like the next phase of insecurity.

This is not the only book to devote itself to Elizabeth’s early life; but it is probably the most detailed.  It is therefore a must read not just to fans of the Virgin Queen, but to anyone who seeks insight into this phase of the Tudor period.  Above all else is a shrewd analysis of the psychology behind the early experiences that shape the character of a woman who is generally judged by history to have been one of that era’s greatest rulers.

Elizabeth: Apprenticeship, by Dr David Starkey was published by Vintage in 2001.  At time of writing, it was available for purchase from Amazon in hardcover (£20.00) and paperback (£13.10)