the TUDOR TUTOR

Your cheeky guide to the dynasty

past / future

8CBD0214-8F02-4FFF-9622-530F180BDF61While my usual topic of conversation is history, today I would like to look forward, instead of backward.

In honour Of Earth Day, I would love to encourage you to do whatever you can to protect the future of our planet, in whatever way you are called. You may be the go-to neighbor for organising local clean-up events. Perhaps you ensure that your household is fastidious about recycling. You may be that coworker who is a terrific example to others, with your BPA-free reusable water bottle. Or maybe you have a passion for educating others on keeping our oceans clean for marine life!

As far as the past, English history is especially close to my heart (as you know!). My affinity for the Tudors is no secret. I also adore reading about anything that falls under “medieval,” Marie Antoinette, and the general history of the British monarchy.

When I set my sights on the future of our earth, my special love is protecting pollinators. And to narrow that down even more, I’m wild about raising native (solitary) bees. They are gentle (no stinging!), extremely effective pollinators, easy to raise, and – let’s be honest – they are absolutely adorable.

See that pic above? That’s one of my sweet little leafcutter bees from last summer, practically smiling for the camera! I’m currently working with my mason bees, lovely little cuties that will fly in mild spring temperatures to pollinate the fruit trees that pop up this time of year.

For more information on keeping these hard-working and darling critters, check out the website of Crown Bees. I get most of my materials from them and they have loads of good info.

Whatever you do to love and preserve our earth, keep doing it. Do it with fervor and with the generosity to encourage others. Many of us thrive on learning about our past, but we cannot ignore our future.

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Oh, THERE it is.

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I’ve seen some reviews of my book that lament a lack of description for the illustrations. I’m just here to point out that the list of illustrations and their pages are directly across from the table of contents!

Must-Read: The King is Dead!

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As a Kindergarten teacher in this day and age, I truthfully cannot find an iota of time while school is in session to read anything that isn’t about phonemic awareness, differentiated instruction, or project-based learning. But Christmas break recently hit and, darn it, I was going to unwind with Suzannah Lipscomb‘s latest book if it was the last thing I did!

The first thing that grabs the reader is the lush cover and its unusual square shape. Visually, it’s a unique stunner. The calligraphy and illuminated manuscript detail, combined with rich colour and Tudor monarch portraits on the border, set a grand setting before the book is even opened.

The inner artwork is equally ambrosial, a mix of color portraits, manuscripts, maps, and pencil sketches by (or in the manner of) Hans Holbein.Can you tell I like my books to be aesthetically pleasing? But what good is a gorgeous tome if it isn’t a pleasurable and intriguing read? The King is Dead is that indeed.

I prefer a teaser-version for book reviews, so as not to spoil anything for the reader. In that way, I can tell you that Dr. Lipscomb guides us through the creation of Henry VIII’s will via his marriages and children, the religious activity of the time, the Acts of the Succession, and his advisors and executors. She explores and challenges popular notions on the will’s “intended meaning, its authenticity and validity, and the circumstances of its creation.”

Dr. Lipscomb’s tone is both professional and conversational, inspiring delight as well as confidence in her authority. There are 168 pre-appendix pages; it is a very manageable book which took me two nights to devour.

This history treasure can be found on Amazon.com here and Amazon.co.uk here. I know you will savor it as much as I have!

 

 

On Cursive Handwriting Education

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I shared the above photo I created on all my social media channels yesterday (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest), with the following caption:

“Learning cursive (joined-up writing or handwriting in the UK) is on the decline in the States, due to the implentation of the Common Core Standards in most states, as well as the erroneous belief that cursive writing is useless and antiquated in the modern world.

On the contrary: Research has shown that cursive writing improves brain development, hones fine motor skills, sharpens categorisation skills, and teaches the brain to integrate visual and tactile information.

Without cursive training, kids won’t be able to read historic documents (let alone communication from older relatives!), won’t be able to take notes efficiently, won’t even know the joy of enjoying a hand-written card. I teach my own kids cursive at home, and feel strongly that it should be implanted in the school curriculum once again.”

The feedback has been tremendous! I wanted to approach some concerns that came up, especially on the thread on my Facebook page and on pages where it has been shared, so here we go…

“Sure they can read historic documents…There are text versions.”

This is like saying “Why learn a foreign language when there’s Google Translate?”

“You mean historicAL.”

I mean both! This holds for historic documents such as the Declaration of Independence, and also for historical documents. For example, last weekend our family visited Culpeper, Virginia, which holds quite a bit of US Civil War era history. In the town’s museum, our 12-year-old daughter was able to read a 19th-century letter from a soldier to one of his relatives, describing the conditions in the area and events happening at the time.

“Reading historic documents just isn’t that important for most kids/people.”

That’s why I mentioned not being able to read communication from people who do write in cursive, not to mention the many other educational benefits listed in the original caption (above).

“It has nothing to do with Common Core.”

To restate the first paragraph of the original caption, “”Learning cursive (joined-up writing or handwriting in the UK) is on the decline in the States, due to the implentation of the Common Core Standards in most states, as well as the erroneous belief that cursive writing is useless and antiquated in the modern world.” While cursive writing may have been pushed aside in some places before Common Core came about (and yes, CC does not mention cursive at all: that’s precisely why it’s not considered a part of the CC curriculum), at least eight CC states to date have made cursive mandatory in schools, including California, Massachusetts, and North Carolina.

“You’ve misspelled ‘handwriting;’ there’s no ‘u’ in it.”

Oh my goodness, enough of this. The flow between my w and r may render the distinction fuzzy. However, rest assured that I know how to spell it and that the w is the letter that’s there.

ALSO!…

*There are some fantastic articles to be found, making the case for cursive. Check out the following articles:

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades – The New York Times

5 Reasons Cursive Writing Should Be Taught in School – Concordia Online

Brain Research and Cursive Writing – David Sortino

* While, as an educator, I much prefer manipulatives to digital educational enhancements, I don’t mind sharing these apps which can add to a child’s learning of cursive writing: Cursive Writing Wizard by L’escapadou, Intro to Cursive by Montessorium, Cursive Writing by Horizon Business Inc, and Zaner-Bloser Handwriting by Zaner-Bloser Inc.

* To see wonderful examples of Tudor signatures, please see this board on my Pinterest page.

Off to the Palace!

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On Monday, 19th August, I finally was able to return to my beloved Hampton Court Palace during the tail end of my trip to London! So I thought I’d share some of that day with you. (Click on any photo to enlarge it.) Off we go!

We arrived 20 minutes before opening on a Monday, so it was blissfully peaceful as we entered and for about the first hour or so. I’m someone who moves heaven and earth to do things on off times, and the payoff is great. Before the main gate opened, we meandered around the main courtyard, where the recreation of the Tudor wine fountain sits. There are also concrete recreations of ye olde partyers enjoying some wine or having a bit of a lie-down…

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as well as feeling quite ill from the festivities.

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Interesting! We took some photos of the courtyard and the exterior and then went directly to the Young Henry VIII exhibit. One room holds the gorgeous painting of The Field of the Cloth of Gold, and it is here that I recognized our friends and activities from the main courtyard:

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So that explains it! This exhibit also introduces us to Young, Fit Henry and his Regal and Polished Queen, Catherine of Aragon. One of the most striking visual elements of this exhibit is a York/Lancaster family tree that adorns one wall:

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But I don’t want to give away the entire exhibit for you … Go and see it!

No trip to Hampton Court is complete without time spent in the impressive Great Hall, bedecked with antlers and tapestries…

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and impressive stained glass and fan-vaulting…

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And look, there’s Anne Boleyn wafting by a tapestry!

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The palace is buzzing with costumed actors, who really lend to the atmosphere of the place.  Henry and Wife #2 were kind enough to pose for a photo before continuing with their hallway bickering:

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No photos are allowed in the gorgeous Chapel Royal, so this photographic tour now moves to the Secrets of the Bedchamber exhibit. No photos allowed inside this exhibit either, but here’s one from the entrance, reflecting the awesome Queen’s Staircase (and the photographer!)

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Now into the gardens on this gorgeous day we go…

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and a peek at the Tudor kitchens

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Then a gander at the ceiling in Anne Boleyn’s Gateway, where the intricate design holds the pesky entwined “A” and “H” that got away from Henry VIII’s efforts to destroy any reminders of his saucy second wife:

"AH"s at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock

“AH”s at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock

"AH" close up

“AH” close up

before heading back to Waterloo Station and grabbing a quick lunch from Marks and Spencer Simply Food to nosh on back in the City, with this lovely view:

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(Hint: Lady Diana Spencer was here in a very poufy dress!)

Finally, another Tudor-y part to my day as Dr. Suzannah Lipscomb was kind enough to carve some time out of her day to meet me for coffee. Not only is she a brilliant historian, she is a super-nice person to chat with! (You’re following her on Twitter, aren’t you?)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sojourn, and keep your eyes peeled for additional posts about this recent trip to My Favourite City!

Weirfore Art Thou, Footnotes?

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Ever read one of Alison Weir’s nonfiction books on Tudor history and, though you enjoy the information, you simply cannot track where it comes from? Many of Weir’s popular works do not include the footnotes and other citations that most nonfiction books do and this has been a source of contention for me as well as others.

On a recent related Facebook page thread, Weir kindly took some time out to explain the deal to me and my followers, and gave me permission to repost the info, as it is a common concern for history fans. Take it away, Alison! …

“Regarding source notes, I must say that my publishers would not allow me to include source notes in my early books – they were then regarded as inappropriate in so-called popular history books. When that editor retired, I insisted that they should be included. Would you believe I then had people complaining that they were a distraction?

“I was told to indicate in the text where the sources came from, but that takes up a lot of text, and you cannot do it in every case. It was not a good decision, and I was unhappy about it, but the world of publishing was very different then, and a new author doesn’t have much clout.

“Since 1998 I have included notes and references in all my books, and I am now rewriting The Six Wives of Henry VIII and restoring all the notes and references, which I still have. But because of my editor’s rule, I did not compile lists of references for the other early books, and my huge files of research notes were discarded in the course of several house moves, which is something I have had cause to regret. I owe a lot to my first editor, but I have been blamed personally for the lack of references when in fact it was something beyond my control. After she retired, I insisted that they be included in the future, and my present editor supported me.”

I thought it would be a good idea to present this, for the record, and I thank Alison again for her participation and time!

Exhibition Halls and Historic Documents? Kids Love ‘Em!

I was planning on getting to the Folger Shakespeare Library’s “London: 1500-1700” exhibit sometime in September, once school had started back up and I was on one of my solo trips into the District. Alas, my kids (ages 10 and 9) wanted to do a D.C. day before school started back up and I figured I’d work in a stop at the Folger since we were starting out on Capitol Hill.

We grab a quick lunch at We, the Pizza because I cannot be on Capitol Hill without a stop there. Then we head a few blocks north and sit in the Folger’s Elizabethan gardens to finish up our handmade coconut sodas and enjoy the shade,  because it’s about 95 bloomin’ degrees and the sun’s brutal. Welcome to August in D.C., people.

My daughter has quite a good eye for photography so I like to let her go off with the camera and catch her shots. I thought this was a nicely-framed one of the knot garden as well as the side doors and balcony:

I am in front of the doors reading the bronze plaque which describes all the lovely plants in front of me. And it looks as though that might be Comedy and Tragedy over my head, getting a laugh at my expense? (By the way, for a closer look at any of the pics in this post, just click on them.)

So in we go to the exhibit, and I’m wondering how long these kids will last surrounded by all this veddy veddy old parchment and such. Surprisingly they are into it, checking display cases and reporting back with “Mom, there’s a Henry VIII document over here!” and “Here”s a drawing of Edward VI!” so perhaps I have done my job after all. Or perhaps they’ve just surrendered having having heard me start many of their days with “Hey, guess who was born today in 15-something??”

My daughter insists that I take a pic of this, mostly because it is so pretty:

This is the lease for 3 tenements and a wharf from St. Margaret’s Parish to Thomas Glover, a waterman, for a period of 50 years as long as he didn’t use it for brothel houses or that sort of unsavoury thing.

Nearby is the page from John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, showing the pope being suppressed by Henry VIII:

I’m quite excited to see this in person as I’ve seen it so many times in print of some sort. The book is, of course, a history of the Reformation from the Protestant viewpoint, if you can’t tell by the king’s planting his slippers all over the pope’s back.

Because I’m a handwriting nerd as well as a history nerd, I am loving this list of  “moneye payd for stuf” in the move of the Office of the Revels (read: fancy bits like tents and masks and other entertainment items, for use in royal celebrations and progresses) to Blackfriars. Henry VIII had appointed Sir Thomas Cawarden in charge of all this “stuf” in 1544. God only knows what this says but I thought it was dramatic and gorgeous:

Anne Askew’s own recounting of her first interrogation was published in 1546 as the book you see below.

The top begins “The First Examination of Anne Askew,  latelye mar-tyred in Smythfelde.” The left side says, “Psalms 116 / The verity of the Lord endured forever” and the right seems to be “Anne Askew stood fast by the verity of God to the end.”

Not to get too far off-track here, but I often ponder the popular view of Anne’s martyrdom versus the fate of Catherine of Aragon. Of course we can’t compare the outcomes of the two women’s lives. But more often than not, Anne is put on a pedestal for being “so brave and strong” whilst sticking to her faith, and Catherine is mocked for “being stubborn” in holding onto hers. I don’t take sides and I know there are exceptions, but this is what I hear and see primarily. But that’s a post for another day.

At one point my kids decide to step out of the exhibition hall and into the gift shop, then come rushing back to tell me about something I “have to see.” Well here it is:

Yep, stacking dolls of Henry and the Magnificent Six!

Now for the sweet finish to our Folger visit: On my previous visit, a docent told me that the Folger houses a wonderful portrait of Elizabeth I in their Founders’ Room. Sadly for me, there was a meeting going on in that room at the time I was there, so I couldn’t see it. I take a chance this time and we’re able to check it out! Feast your eyes:

This is the Plimpton “Sieve” portrait, by George Gower, dating from 1579.  (As I’m quite limited by my point-and-shoot and the lighting in the room, you will probably want to click  here for a zoomable digital image of the painting.) In the queen’s left hand is, yep, a sieve. It’s a reference to the Roman vestal virgin Tuccia who advertised her v-card by being able to carry water in a sieve.  I’ll bet Tim Tebow never thought of that approach.

Her coat of arms sits above her left shoulder and the globe sits above her right shoulder, with “I see everything and much is lacking” in Italian below it. I am loving her crown, though not so much the black and gold striped scarf hanging from it. In typical Gloriana fashion, the dress is bejeweled to the hilt and looks like it weighs about 100 pounds. All in all, a stately portrait for a lady who always had a statement to make!

(As soon as we walk into the room, my observant son immediately recognises the dress from the display case on the lower level of the Folger; it holds a replica that actress Michael Learned wore in the Folger’s production of “Elizabeth the Queen” in 2003.)

There are many other items in the exhibit, of course. I’ve shared with you some of the Tudor-era treasures but there are others from that period, as well as lots from the post-Tudor years until 1700. But I don’t want to give away the farm because I’m hoping you’ll be able to see the exhibit for yourself; it runs through 30 September.

* Special thanks to security guard (and crime fiction writer) Quintin Peterson for escorting us to the Founders’ Room to view the queen’s portrait, graciously answering all our questions, and giving us additional background on the Folger itself.

** Have you come along with me to the Folger’s “Vivat Rex” exhibit? You can do so here.

*** Why not take an 8-minute trip through Tudor D.C. with me on YouTube?