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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finalists in the Wind Warrior Blog Tour

Hello everyone! I wanted to announce the 5 finalists in the Wind Warrior Blog Tour Giveaway. These finalists will be sent to the author and she will pick the grand prize winners. And the 5 finalists from The Maiden's Court are:


Finalists - please send me your mailing addresses ASAP (I am emailing you) - I need to pass this information on to the author today. Congrats and thank you to everyone that entered!

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Audiobook Review: The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Carolly Erickson

mary queen of scots

The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Carolly Erickson
Unabridged, 9 hr. 36 min.
BBC Audiobooks America
Rebekah Germain (narrator)
September 3, 2009
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Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, Audio Book

Source: Borrowed Audio Book from Library
“Queen of Scotland at six days of age, married as a young girl to the invalid young king of France, Mary took the reins of the unruly kingdom of Scotland as a young widow and fought to keep her throne. A second marriage to her handsome but dissolute cousin Lord Darnley ended in murder and scandal, while a third to the dashing Lord Bothwell, the love of her life, gave her joy but widened the scandal and surrounded her with enduring ill repute.

Unable to rise above the violence and disorder that swirled around her, Mary escaped to England—only to find herself a prisoner of her ruthless, merciless cousin Queen Elizabeth.

Here, in a riveting first-person account, is the enchanting woman whose name still evokes excitement and compassion—and whose death under the headsman’s axe still draws forth our sorrow”
I have had a couple Carolly Erickson novels on my shelf for over a year and just never had the time to pick them up – I have also heard many mixed reviews, which could be another reason why I sort of shied away. But while walking through my new library, I saw this on the audio book shelf and decided that now was as good a time as any.

I have mixed feelings about this book. To start off with the good – it was a very dramatic, attention holding story. From beginning to end there was something going on and I never felt like I was left waiting for something more. With this being a first person narrator driven story, I was very happy to not be left with constant description and limited action. There were also some very helpful date references – without it feeling too diary like – that really helped set the time period for me.

Now for the “I wouldn’t exactly classify it as bad, but not great” – this was a very, very fictionalized retelling of her story. While that is not a bad thing – because this is historical fiction and there was an author note at the end (more on that later) – it seemed unbelievable at times. It is commonly told that Mary was wed to Lord Bothwell (her third husband) by force after he took her hostage and possibly raped her. That is not at all how this happened in this memoir. While not giving anything away, Erickson dramatically changed the character of dear “Jamie” Bothwell, which really changed the whole life story of Mary. These changes would have gone over with me better if Mary was more convincing in her reasoning for the decisions she makes. The character felt very wishy-washy to me. Now in regard to the Author’s Note – I usually want the author to provide some sort of insight into radical changes they made or explain something further (an author with a great hand at composing author notes is Bernard Cornwell!). This authors note was probably around 4 sentences basically saying that she fictionalized many details for the purpose of the story to be told – but didn’t go into any details. I would have liked more.

Overall, if you put the history into the background and just follow the story, it is pretty good. I did find myself enjoying the Bothwell/Mary story. If you are a hard stickler for historical accuracy, I would skip this one. I am very glad I chose this on audio book rather than in hard copy.


As far as the audio part goes, I thought that this narrator did pretty well. She voiced a rather convincing Mary - even if the actual character was very fictionalized.

You can listen to a sample of the audiobook below (links to Audible):
Play symbol 85x85
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia 

Also by Carolly Erickson:

the last wife of henry viii
The Last Wife of Henry VIII

the hidden diary of marie antoinette
The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette

bloody mary
Bloody Mary

rival to the queen
Rival to the Queen

the tsarina's daughter
The Tsarina’s Daughter

the secrey life
The Secret Life of Josephine

the favored queen
The Favored Queen

great catherine
Great Catherine

the the scaffold
To the Scaffold

the spanish queen
The Spanish Queen

her little majesty
Her Little Majesty

Find Carolly Erickson: Website | Goodreads 

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Audiobook Review: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Unabridged, 9 hr. 58 min.
Macmillan Audio
Polly Stone (narrator)
May 26, 2009
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Genre: Historical & Contemporary Fiction
Source: Audiobook borrowed from Library
“Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel' d'Hiv's 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode”
This book came highly recommended to me by my Aunt and I have to pass on my high recommendations for this book to you all.

This novel tells two stories – both set in Paris, France, but 60 years apart. You have the story taking place in 1942 – told through the eyes of a 10 year old child. With this perspective, you are not told everything, but we as the reader can start to put pieces together for a more complete story. In her story the characters do not have names – they are just mother, brother, father, etc. For me, the fact that people were not given names – made this anyone’s story; it wasn’t necessarily just the story of Sarah and her family’s traumatic event, but the story of any of the families affected by the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup.

The other story is the 2002 story – this is the story of Julia – an American ex-patriot living in France. She is a journalist and begins writing a story about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup for the magazine that she works for and becomes so absorbed with the story of this little girl, Sarah. As the novel bounces back and forth between time periods, you can use the information you learn through Julia’s research to help understand what is going on in Sarah’s story.

About half-way through the novel the two stories merge in a shocking way. You learn the names and fates of the characters and at that point it becomes Sarah’s story – no longer is it the generic story of any little girl.

This is a very sad and traumatic story – you will likely need a few tissues. Although the events are sad, the fact that Julia is doing this research and determined to bring these events back into the minds of the public who have forgotten, is admirable and something that I think should happen more often. If we don’t remember, we forget – it’s a very straightforward concept. For me, the writing was flawless and the story was so inspirational and taught me a lot.


The narration was absolutely top notch! With this book set in France and some phrases in French, it was easier to get the real feel of the story - I know absolutely no French so I would have slaughtered it.

You can listen to a short sample of the book below:

This book has been turned into a movie, Elle s’appelait Sarah, which was recently picked up at the Toronto Film Festival for US distribution by Weinstein & Co. It is scheduled to be released in France on October 13, 2010. It stars Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia and Melusine Mayance as Sarah.

Here is the trailer –

Reviews of this book by other bloggers

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Tatiana de Rosnay:

the house i lvoed

The House I Loved
[My Review]

a secret kept

A Secret Kept

the other story

The Other Story

a Paris affair

A Paris Affair

You can also check out my review of the movie.

Find Tatiana de Rosnay: Website | Facebook | Twitter



Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mailbox Monday #49

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page - but during the month of September it will be hosted by Bermudaonion Weblog.

I had a great haul from my mailbox this week - review copies, PBS books, and bookstore purchases (that didn't arrive in my mailbox).

From Sourcebooks I received the rerelease of one of Margaret Campbell Barnes books - The Passionate Brood. I struggled through Sourcebook's previous release of her book Within the Hollow Crown, so I hope this one is better.

I used the last 2 credits I had on PaperBackSwap to get The Song of Hannah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy and Doomed Queens by Kris Waldher (I have been dying for this one).

Then I used my birthday giftcard to Barnes & Noble to get The Bronze Horseman and Tatiana and Alexander by Paullina Simons. I have been wanting to read these for awhile and the covers are gorgeous! Plus I needed to get out of England and check out Russia for awhile.

Did you get anything in your mailbox this past week?

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, September 24, 2010

Caught on Tape: Off With Their Heads!

Usually when I do an edition of Caught on Tape, it focuses on one person, this time, as part of Off With Their Heads! Week, I thought it would be interesting to see some of the portrayals of royal executions in TV and movies. I have only chosen one scene per character even though there may have been several to pick from – in order to keep this to a reasonable length post (it is going to be lengthy already. I also tried to stick with dramas instead of biopics or historical documentaries.

So let’s start this off with the queens…

When I think of a royal beheading, my mind immediately goes to Anne Boleyn – most likely because the Tudors have been all the hype lately. This clip is from the TV show the Tudors and I thought that Natalie Dormer did a fantastic job! I have to admit, I cried when I watched this episode. The music was beautiful too.

Next up, again from the Tudors is Katherine Howard (played by Tamzin Merchant)– the other wife that Henry VIII had beheaded – and Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford (played by Joanne King). They were both executed one after the other and instead of breaking them apart, I thought it would be best to do the combined scene. You should note Katherine reaction after Jane is executed. I would have hated to be her; I would have rather went first. This scene doesn’t quite have the same feel as the Anne scene.

Lady Jane Grey was the Nine Day Queen who ruled England after the death of King Edward and before the reign of Queen Mary. This scene is from the 1986 move Lady Jane starring Helena Bonham Carter – I didn’t think this movie was that bad. There is the infamous “where is it?, where is it?” line too.

Now to move a little later in time, to Mary Queen of Scots. The scene I selected was from the BBC serial drama Elizabeth R (1971) – something I am moving up my list to see. In this Queen Mary is played by Vivian Pickles. It is a little bit of a long scene and not as dramatic as the previous few scenes, but it gets the point across. You get to see how bad the executioner was. The aftermath scene with Queen Elizabeth is pretty interesting too.

The final Queen, and the only one that I have from outside England, is Marie Antoinette. You probably know that she lost her head in a very different manner than the rest – by the guillotine during the French Revolution. A very public execution and there were not really any last words. This clip comes from the 2001 movie i– Marie is played by Joely Richardson.

Now that we have finished looking at the royal women, let us take a look at the men, both royal and courtiers.

Thomas Cromwell was one of Henry VIII’s most influential advisors. Cromwell advocated for the removal of Anne Boleyn and later was instrumental in the marriage of Henry to Anne of Cleves – which ultimately led to his downfall. Because of the disaster of this marriage, his enemies took advantage and he was executed on the same day Henry wed Katherine Howard (and we know how that one ended). This clip is from the Tudors and features James Frain as Cromwell.

Another Thomas who lost his head during the reign of Henry VIII was Thomas More. More was the Lord Chancellor to Henry following Thomas Wolsey. More’s downfall was that he disapproved of the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. All nobles were required to swear to the Act of Succession (stating that Anne was the legitimate Queen), which More did, but what he could not accept was the oath of supremacy, giving Parliament the right to legislate religious issues, and acknowledging the divorce to Catherine as legitimate. Many urged him to make the oath but he would not. He was charged with treason and sentenced to death. This scene is again taken from the Tudors and More is played by Jeremy Northam.

My final segment is on my only King – Charles I. Charles was the victim of the English Civil War. In the past, the king would be overthrown and murdered – this was basically the first time that a king was given a trial. He was found guilty a high treason for inciting the Civil War and other crimes and was subsequently executed. The scene I chose was from the 1970 movie Cromwell where Charles I was played by Alec Guinness. A very emotional scene.

I hope that these scenes have been interesting to you as we explored these terrible times in history. Many of these people didn’t really do terrible crimes that should have lead to execution – maybe jail, but execution was a little harsh.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think? Any others that you have seen that you thought were better?

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Off With Their Heads! - Books of Last Days

Sometimes you just want to read a book that is about a small segment of someone's life. In this case, the last days of someone. Here is a list of books that cover the last period of our historical figures lives or relate to them in some way. I haven't read most of these, so don't hold me to it. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know!

The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir – NF examines the last 4 months of her life

The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy – Anne looking back on her life while in the Tower

The Rose Without a Thorn by Jean Plaidy – Katherine looking back on her life while in Tower

The Captive Queen of Scots by Jean Plaidy – the life of Mary from captivity in Lochleven castle until the end

The Trial of Mary Queen of Scots: A Brief History with Documents by Jayne Elizabeth Lewis – NF focuses on the treason trial and execution of Mary

The Road from Versailles: Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the Fall of the French Monarchy by Munro Price – NF examines politics of the Revolution and the family’s failed attempt to escape France

Flaunting Extravagant Queen by Jean Plaidy – follows Marie Antoinette from her marriage to her death

Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey by Ann Rinaldi – YA – Jane retells her tale from beyond the grave

A Coffin for King Charles: The Trial and Execution of Charles I by C. V. Wedgewood – NF – Trial and execution

The Trial of Charles I: A Documentary History by David Lagomarsino – NF – Documentary account and first hand retelling of trial

The King’s Trial: Louis XVI vs. The French Revolution by David P. Jordan – NF – looks at Louis XVI from when he surrenders his crown until his execution

Regicide and Revolution: Speeches at the Trial of Louis XVI by Michael Walzer – NF – speeches

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Off With Their Heads! - Famous Last Words

Sometimes the thing that someone is remembered best for is the last words that they say. This is true in many cases with historical figures. It is also true that sometimes these last words are just what a contemporary records as their last words. This may be fiction but it ends up being what everyone remembers - this is likely the case with Katherine Howard's last words. Sometimes their last words were just to get them safely into Heaven. Others did not even have their last words recorded (Jane Boleyn). Let's explore these now.

"To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul." ~ Anne Boleyn

"I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper." ~ Catherine Howard (rumored to be said)

"Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!" ~ Jane Grey

"Never have I had such assistants to disrobe me, and never have I put off my clothes before such a company." ~ Mary, Queen of Scots

"Pardon me Sir, I meant not to do it", ~ Marie Antoinette (she tripped over the executioner’s foot on the way to the guillotine)

“I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I Pardon those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to God that the blood you are going to shed may never be visited on France.” ~ Louis XVI

"I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be."~ Charles I

"The King's good servant but God's first." ~ Thomas More

"Good people, I come here to die and not to purge myself as some may think I should. I am by law condemned to die and I thank my Lord God that has granted me this death for my offense, for since I came of age I have lived as a sinner, and offended my Lord God for which I ask Him heartily for forgiveness. I have also offended my prince, for which I ask him hearty amnesty. I heartily desire you to pray for the King's Grace, and that he may long live with you in health and prosperity, and that after him his son Prince Edward may long reign over you.

Gentlemen, you should all take warning from me, who was as you know from a poor man made by the Prince into a great gentleman, and that I, not contented with that, not with having the kingdom at my orders, presumed to a still higher state.

My pride has brought its punishment."
~Thomas Cromwell

Last words can say a lot about a person, huh?

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Off With Their Heads! - In Pictures

In continuing Off With Their Heads! Week, I have put together a slide show of contemporary drawings and paintings of the executions or the events leading up to the exections. There are a couple exceptions where I could not find contemporary works - so I used some screen captures from the Tudors.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, September 20, 2010

Off With Their Heads: Intro of the Players

To kick-off Off With Their Heads week, I thought it would be a good idea to get to know the characters that we will be encountering throughout the week. While we will not be looking at each and every royal or courtier that has lost their head, but I chose several of the best know cases.

First, the Queens – there are 5 very well known Queens – and all but one was at the hands of one Tudor or another.

Anne Boleyn – Anne was the first Queen to lose her head because of Henry VIII. Henry had been so in love with Anne that he had divorced his previous wife Catherine. But alas, that would not last long. Anne was charged with adultery, incest (with her brother), and treason against the king. These charges were most assuredly false, but were helped along by her sister in law (Jane Boleyn) – who we will see a little later on. Because of political manipulations and the desire for a male heir, Henry signed off on the warrant and Anne was executed by a French swordsman on May 19, 1536.

Katherine Howard – Katherine was the second Queen who fell to Henry – for quite similar reasons as her predecessor, but her charges were most likely true. Henry married Katherine (a young, pretty girl) after his failed marriage to Anne of Cleves. By this time Henry was aging and heavy and oozing – not much for a young girl to stick around for. Katherine began a secret love affair with Thomas Culpepper (which Jane Boleyn helped along) – which ultimately lead to her treason charge and execution. She was executed on February 13, 1542.

Jane Grey – Jane was the Nine Day Queen – she was pushed into the role by those around her who didn’t want Mary Tudor to become the Catholic Queen after Edward VI died. After just a few days, the Privy Council decided that Mary was the appropriate queen of England and she was imprisoned in the Tower of London to await the decision of what Queen Mary would do about her. Jane was charged with high treason but was supposedly going to be spared. Another rebellion a few days later sealed the deal – because her father was involved – and she was then executed on February 12, 1554 (almost exactly 2 years from the date of Catherine Howard’s execution).

Mary, Queen of Scots – Mary would be the last Queen to fall to a Tudor. Mary escaped from captivity in Scotland to England with the hope that her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, would help her. She thought wrong and Elizabeth had her imprisoned at various households across England. After several plots (on the part of Mary) she became too much of a risk to Elizabeth. She was found guilty of attempts on the life of the Queen and found guilty – although the Queen held off on signing the death warrant. After the warrant was signed – Elizabeth hadn’t given permission for it to be carried out – yet her councilors carried out the act quickly so that her mind couldn’t be changed. She was executed on February 8, 1587.

Marie Antoinette – Marie is our first and only Queen from outside of England. Most know the story of Marie Antoinette. Her and her husband, Louis XVI were frivolous in the way that they lived while their subjects faced hard times. The subjects revolted and the King and Queen were taken captive. The King was tried and executed – as we will look at later. Marie was charged with several crimes including incest with her young son. She was found guilty of treason in an orchestrated trial and sentenced to execution by the guillotine. She suffered the indignity of having her hair cut off and being driven through the mob in a cart in a simple, plain dress. She was executed on October 16, 1793. She was buried in an unmarked grave.

Now that we have investigated the Queens, we should look at the few Kings.

Louis XVI – This French King was the husband of Marie Antoinette. As stated above, they were dethroned during the French Revolution. Louis was charged with high treason and crimes against the state. All of the voting members of The Convention found him guilty of his crimes, but the vote was much closer on the issue of execution. In the end, it was decided he would be executed. On January 21, 1793 Louis was beheaded by the guillotine. There are some accounts that say his head was not fully severed in the first blow.

Charles I – The story of Charles I’s road to execution is a rather intricate story, which I am not even sure I really understand enough to describe here, so I’m going to rather explain just his trial and execution. The concept of trying a king was relatively new – usually he would just be overthrown and then murdered. The charges against Charles were that of treason and using his power to promote personal interests rather than that of the state. He also was, in part, responsible for helping along the civil wars. Charles refused to answer to the charges against him and his death warrant was signed. He was executed on January 30, 1649. In an unprecedented action, the head of Charles I was sewn back onto his body.

The last three characters that we will look at, in brief, are royal courtiers. There were many, many courtiers that I could have chosen for this, from many different courts – but I chose to stick with ones that are from the time of Henry VIII of England.

Jane Boleyn – Jane contributed to the downfall of not only Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, but also to her husband, George Boleyn, and several others. She provided witness to Anne’s adultery and incest and she conspired with Katherine for her secret trysts with Thomas Culpepper. For her actions in the Culpepper scandal, Jane was imprisoned and interrogated. During this time she appeared to suffer from a mental breakdown. At that time, those mentally insane could not be executed, but Henry changed all of that with a flick of his pen which changed the law to allow the execution of the insane. Jane was executed on February 13, 1542 – right before Katherine Howard.

Thomas More – Thomas was the Lord Chancellor of England – in this role, he was very effective. His problem stemmed from the religious upheaval in England. Thomas was a staunch Catholic during a time when the tides were changing to the Church of England. He resigned from his office because he refused to take an oath that renounced jurisdiction over the church to anyone but the sovereign. He also did not like Anne Boleyn. He refused to attend the coronation, which put him on Henry’s bad side. He had many petty charges brought against him, but they were proven to be false. What ultimately brought him down was his inability to swear to the oath of supremacy and disagreed with the King’s divorce from Queen Catherine. This led to his charge of treason. More refused to answer all questions – believing that if he didn’t deny the King was the ruler of the Church, he couldn’t be found guilty. He was found guilty anyway. He was executed on July 6, 1535 and his head was posted on London Bridge.

Thomas Cromwell – Cromwell was the Chief Minister to Charles I. Cromwell was Henry’s biggest supporter in the overthrown of Anne in favor of Jane Seymour. His downfall would be because of another of Henry’s failed marriages – Anne of Cleves. Cromwell was a strong supporter of the Cleves marriage because it would make the Reformation much stronger – by bringing in a Protestant queen. The Cleves marriage was a disaster – the King was not satisfied and Cromwell could not find him a way out of it without upsetting the Duke of Cleves and the Protestants. His enemies found a way to get him out of the picture. An Act of Attainder was signed but held until the Cleves marriage was ended. He was executed on July 28, 1540.

Now that you have a sense of what was behind the stories of these characters, we can explore other avenues throughout this week. Hope you learned a little something today. Stay tuned tomorrow for Off With Their Heads! In Pictures.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Suddenly Sunday - Off With Their Heads!

Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog.

Happy Sunday Everyone! Hope you have been having a great weekend – I certainly don’t want it to end…

First I want to take the chance to announce the winner of the giveaway for The Countess and the King by Susan Holloway Scott. The winner was chosen by Random.org and the winner is …


Congrats, I am sending you an email for your contact info. If I don’t hear from the winner within a week, I will select an alternate winner. Now, it other news, this week I am hosting a weeklong event called Off With Their Heads! Week. I will be featuring posts that star those royals and courtiers that parted with their heads under dire circumstances.

On Monday – Intro of the Players – there will be short summaries of the key players featured this week

On Tuesday – Off With Their Heads! In Pictures – we will explore the way that these deaths were recorded in paintings and drawings

On Wednesday – Famous Last Lines – we will take a look at some of the last speeches said during their last minutes

On Thursday – Books of Last Days – this will feature books that really focus on the end of these character’s lives

On Friday – The newest segment of Caught on Tape: Off With Their Heads!

I hope you all will drop by and take part in the fun.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court