Posts Tagged Tudors

Episode 58: Mary, Queen of Scots

Posted 13 November 2015 by
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Mary, Queen of Scots had a good start: she was wearing the crown early and upgraded it at a young age under the watchful eye of many an interested party but once she started making decisions for herself? Ah, that’s when her life took dramatic twists and turns that ultimately took the crown off her head. Actually, those decisions got her whole head taken off, but let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Mary Stuart about age 16  wedding the Francis and before her life turned quite contrary. "MaryStuartbyClouet" by François Clouet - Royal CollectionNative nameRoyal Collection of the United KingdomLocationUnited KingdomEstablishedafter Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Mary Stuart about age 16 before her life turned quite contrary.
(François Clouet – Royal Collection via Wikimedia Commons)

Once upon a time in a rugged Renaissance land lived a king and a queen…

640px-Linlithgow_Palace by Alex Sanz flickr

Linlithgow Palace in Scotland where Mary was born, looks very storybookish…maybe Brothers Grimm but a            storybook nonetheless.                                                                                                                                                                (credit:Alex Sanz via Flckr)

Papa King, James V, Mama Queen Marie de Guise, he was out of the picture pretty quickly. (unknown artist, wikimedia commons)

Papa King, James V, Mama Queen Marie de Guise– he was out of the picture pretty quickly.
(unknown artist, wikimedia commons)

The fair Princess, Mary Stewart, quickly became the Fair Queen when her papa died right after her birth (which was pretty much following in the family business of baby rulers.)

YoungMaryStuart Francois Clouet age 13ish

Mary Stuart about age 13 by Francois Clouet                                (wickimedia commons)


Baby then toddler Mary was whisked from castle to castle by her mother who was trying to keep her safe (mostly from the English who would like nothing more than for her to NOT be Queen). In a spiffy piece of bargaining five year-old Mary and her four friends…the Marys (can’t make this up, People, fact is often cooler than fiction) were sent off to France where she was promised to the Dauphin, Francis.

Stirling Castle, one of the Keep-Mary-Safe places

Stirling Castle, one of the Keep-Mary-Safe places

The Coterie of Marys had a fairly decent next few years in France. Mary–now frenchified to Stuart— was treated very well and raised with Francis. She was educated, spent a great deal of time with her mother’s family and lived about ten years of princessy bliss cared for by Francis’ mother, Catherine Di Medici and regularly doted on by King Henri II. Okay, so Catherine was concerned because Mary would be the NEXT Queen of France and Henri was interested because he thought Mary was the rightful heir to the English throne.

What? We go over all this in detail during the podcast (or listen to our Tudor episodes numbers 22, 24, 43 and 44) but basically Catholics thought that any of Henry VIII’s marriages AFTER Catherine of Aragon –wife number one, mother of Queen Mary I of England– were null and void. Any children produced, they believed, were illegitimate. Mary Stuart was a direct and legitimate descendant of a Tudor (Henry VIII’s sister was her grandmother)…badda bing- she should be Queen of England after Mary I not Elizabeth who was the daughter of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Clear? Good. Now back to Mary…

Francis and Mary wed, then Papa Henri died in a jousting accident making Francis and Mary King and Queen (well there was a bit more to it, just listen to the podcast).

Francis and Mary about the age that they got married, Francois Clouet

Francis and Mary about the age that they got married, Francois Clouet

Great! They will rule happily ever after!

Not exactly. After a year and a half of their reign Mama Marie back in Scotland was dead and no one was guarding the roosters there anymore; Francis was dead, and Mary, not having gotten pregnant wasn’t really necessary in France. Several potential marriages were discussed but Mary decided it was time she went back to Scotland.

At first she was doing a decent job of balancing the Protestant and Catholic struggles, brought a little class to the joint and was doing a fair job of telling Queen Elizabeth I she wasn’t just her cousin but also her friend. No rivals here, ‘Cuz.

And then a man. *sigh* A man by the name of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. He was her 2nd cousin by marriage and she was smitten…or she thought it was a wise political move to marry him- so she did.

Mary Stuart and James Darnley, quite a fetching pair

Mary Stuart and James Darnley, quite a fetching pair, right? He looks full of himself, doesn’t he?

This bad decision quickly turned sour. Darnley was, well, the best word is petulant. And greedy, greedy is good, too. His attempts to usurp Mary’s power quickly put them at odds. To complicate matters: Mary was pregnant. HIGH drama ensued: there was a plot by Darnley that landed one man dead, Baby James was born and then another foiled plot led to a very curious murder of yet another man: Lord Darnley himself. *cue dramatic music*

Twice widowed and single mother Mary made a few more poor choices- she ignored pressure from both the public and Queen Elizabeth to bring the obvious suspect in the murder to trial. In fact in the most dramatic move yet- she married him mere weeks after he kidnapped HER. (Seriously, go listen to the episode.)

Husband number three: James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell- swarmy, mean and an emotional abuser. Mary sure can pick ’em.

Pretty much this. (oh please, you can google Bothwell)  credit: J.J. at English Language Wikipedia

Pretty much this. (oh please. You can Google Bothwell)
credit: J.J. at English Language Wikipedia

This is when the Nobility, who were in a power struggle with Mary since the beginning of her life, had enough. She quickly fell out of favor, Bothwell was run off and Mary was imprisoned. She then made yet another really bad decision: she misinterpreted Queen Elizabeth’s intentions, fled to England for protection by her cousin and soon was imprisoned again…

…for the next 19 years.

Elizabeth could hardly let this woman who was next in line for her crown and who had so much support from Catholics to be wearing said crown party across the land. Elizabeth debated what to do with Mary and ultimately several more bad decisions of trusting the wrong people sealed Mary’s fate. Evidence real, tricked or fabricated of a plot to kill the Queen will do that.

Mary stood trial and was convicted of treason. On February 8, 1587  44 year-old Mary’s life decisions were made for her and she was executed.

Mother and Son...that never happened because he was an infant the last time she saw him.

Mother and Son…that never happened because he was an infant the last time she saw him.

16 years later the son she never really knew succeeded Queen Elizabeth to become King James VI. He had his mothers body moved so that she could be buried in Westminster Abbey.


Flickr user Lisby

Fit for a Queen.                                                          (credit: flickr user Lisby)




First: CORRECTION!!! All you wise arborists (or arborist-wannabes) caught that Susan said the wrong tree when describing a family tree. Harry Lauder Walking Stick is the correct name. Here it is, and here you can read more about it at Missouri Botanical Garden.Sierra Exif JPEG

You want more, yes, yes we know…here is all the media that we referenced in this episode (we took notes so you don’t have to!)

Papa King James V…was very paternally prolific. Here is a post from Unusual Historicals about his many illegitimate children including the Favorite turned Adversary, James Stewart, Earl of Moray.

Cybervisit Stirling Castle, one of Mary’s residences in Scotland, or if you happen to be in the neighborhood, visit her birthcastle (it’s a word) (well, now it is), Linlithgow Palace or visit in person (lucky!) or online (the rest of us) The National Museum of Scotland.

The podcast we recommended that has the episodes about pregnancy and childbirth (and a lot more great content) is…


GET THIS ONE! We both liked it, lots of info but lots of photos and paintings, too. It’s lovely.

Mary Queen of Scots, by Susan Watkins and Mark Fiennes

Mary Queen of Scots, by Susan Watkins and Mark Fiennes

Also good:


John Guy


Kids book! Fiona MacDonald and David Antram

Kids book! Fiona MacDonald and David Antram

A couple historical fictions for you….

Phillipa Gregory

And for an easy to digest view of all things Tudor as well as amazingly charming illustrations by our friend and favorite History Witch, Lisa Graves (actually she’s the only History Witch we know)

Barb Alexander and Lisa Graves




with Katherine Hepburn

1936 with Katherine Hepburn

1971 with Vanessa Redgrave

1971 with Vanessa Redgrave

Or how about the 2013 Swiss version? Yes, how about it? We couldn’t get our hands on it so we can’t recommend it but Susan was on such a failed quest she needs to know how it is!

How is it?!

How is it?!

The meta referential, The Mirror Cracked


Can you pick out the historically correct Mary Queen of Scots from the CW Show, Reign Mary Queen of Scots? And that's all you need to know about Reign.

Can you pick out the historically correct Mary, Queen of Scots from the Reign Mary, Queen of Scots? And that’s all you need to know about Reign.(Which Susan didn’t hate once she could overlook the inaccuracies and stopped moaning, “They could have done so much more with this show!”)


Here is the Last Days of Mary, Queen of Scots documentary that we talked about. Go get yourself a snack, it’s about 45 minutes long.


What about the Nursery Rhyme? Is it about Mary, Queen of Scots? Disney sure thinks so (from 3:22)…


We know, you really want to see the 1895 silent film version of The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots: The 40 seconds that will traumatize any young child. If you are a young child, ask your parents before you click play. Actually, although the special effects aren’t all that special to our modern eye, it still might creep you out.

You have been warned.

QUICK! Get that image out of your head with this incomprehensible Monty Python sketch,

This episode is brought to you by the fine and generous people from (the internet’s leading provider of audio books…BACKSLASH CHICKS, you know the drill) and The Message (a creepy audio drama with a pretty nifty website by GE Podcast Theater )

…And a super special shout-out to all the wonderful people we have partnered with at Panoply

Episode 44: Queen Elizabeth I, Part 2

Posted 10 February 2014 by
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Episode 43: Elizabeth I, Part One

Posted 20 December 2013 by
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She was called many things: Princess, Bastard, Gloriana, Good Queen Bess, and the Virgin Queen. We add to our Tudor series this chat about the extraordinary life and reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Queen Elizabeth I in her coronation robes

So long was our talk, that we have broken Elizabeth’s story up into two episodes. This first one will cover her life until she is crowned, and the next until her death and beyond.

Some of you are thinking, “Wait, Chicks, didn’t you talk about Elizabeth before?”

Yes, we did, but only her life as it related to others: her parents, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, her stepmothers including Catherine of Aragon, cousin Lady Jane Gray and her half sister- Queen Mary I. If you have not listened to those episodes, you might like to and gain a fuller view of how her life intertwined into those stories.

Henry VIII was married for 24 years to one wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. This marriage produced only one child- Elizabeth’s half sister, Mary. Henry, desperate for a son to carry on his bloodline, pulled some serious political and religious chess moves to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn who was- at the time of their secret wedding- pregnant with Elizabeth. She was born on September 7, 1533.

So, okay, Hank wanted a boy. But Anne could get pregnant, let’s try again.

And again.

And again.

When Elizabeth was two years old, her father figured out a way to get a male heir: be rid of Anne on trumped up charges and marry someone else.

Hey, it was a plan. And it worked…maybe not so well for Anne or Elizabeth but they were never Henry’s primary priority.  Wife #3, Stepmother #1- Jane Seymour had the good fortune to give birth to a male heir, Prince Edward- and then she died of complications from childbirth. Okay, maybe that wasn’t entirely good fortune- but Henry is on to his next wife…and his next until  Stepmom #4-Katherine Parr, who is the only one of the six to add “widow” to her title. Henry VIII died.

A young Elizabeth by William Scrots

We do go into all the details of Elizabeth’s upbringing in the episode. She was raised to live at court, and she did have moments of happiness in her childhood. She was bright, inquisitive, educated and well liked from a very early age. She also was pretty much ignored by her father except for a modest to small allowance during his life.

In his death, she became third in line for the throne and was a very valuable commodity. This was realized by her then stepfather-ish, Thomas Seymour. Oh, we had a great deal of fun at ol’ Tom’s benefit. He doesn’t make it very long into the story- he is executed for charges that were not trumped up. As Elizabeth herself said, “Today died a man of much wit and very little judgement.”

First to rule after her father: King Edward, her half brother. Elizabeth and Edward were fairly close in age and raised togetherish (as much as the royal dysfunction allowed). Edward died about 6 years after becoming King- he was only 16.

For a very brief time, Lady Jane Gray was put up as his replacement (oh, that was a doozie of a story- we cover it in the Lady Jane Gray minicast) and Elizabeth’s older half-sister Mary needed Elizabeth to help her get her to her rightful place. After Queen Mary succeeded in getting crowned, she had very little use and a big dose of mistrust for Elizabeth. After a term in the Tower, Elizabeth is sent off to life at Hatfield House for the majority of Mary’s reign (of terror, we are talking Bloody Mary here. Okay, if you want the real details, go listen to the Queen Mary I podcast).

The Tower of London from the River Thames…not Elizabeth’s favorite residence.

Hatfield House. She spent a great deal of time here as a child and during Mary’s reign.

Finally, at the age of 25 after her mother died at the hands of her father, her father handed her over to others to raise her, many men attempted to win her hand in marriage Elizabeth is handed the crown and becomes Queen Elizabeth.

Did you catch the part where we said that Elizabeth was smart and cunning and well liked? These are all traits that help her as soon as she gets that crown on her gingerhead. She reinstates her father’s Act of Supremacy which puts her at the head of the church- but she makes some significant changes. She gives nods to Roman Catholicism, gives a generous hand to Protestantism and creates a religious environment that allows people to breath and only ticks off the extremists.

She appoints advisers who not only can be trusted by her but will tell it to her like it is. They are are smart and respect her although she is (think like it’s 1560) a woman. These advisers agree on one key item: Elizabeth must marry.

We banter about playing Tudor Suitors for awhile, outlining the relationships with the men most likely to walk off with the final Tudor Rose.

There were some who she simply played for political reasons (Prince Phillip of Spain? Mary’s Sloppy Seconds? We don’t think so), and some who really had a shot including her “Frog” and “Bonny Sweet Robin”. As always there is far more information in the podcast than in these notes, but the result is the same: none would ever win her hand.

That’s where this episode ends- but oh, it is not the end of Elizabeth’s story, not by a long shot.


In Part Two we referenced two sources for more detailed information on the Irish Rebellion as well as the relationship between Ireland and the Tudors in general.  If you are looking for more information on this aspect of Elizabeth’s life we recommend you start with this BBC post, Turning Ireland English but Steven Ellis as well as his book, Ireland in the Age of the Tudors.

Ah, the great Who’s the best Elizabeth Debate- we pick our favorites during the episode and here are the top contenders (but not the only ones- this is a story that has been made and remade- and many versions are excellent, just remember that they are mostly historical fiction not necessarily a documentary, and all will be well.)


Glenda Jackson, 1971 540 minute long BBC version

Cate Blanchett, 1998/ 2005 theatrical release versions

Helen Mirren 2005 HBO miniseries

We had the opportunity to be a part of several min-biographies for the Biography Channel. Here is one on Elizabeth that you might enjoy.

If you happen to be in the UK, missing Elizabeth I places would be the trick, not finding them- there are quite a few. Like, Hatfield House and the Tower of London, and The Globe Theater.

Books: Okay here is the deal. Elizabeth I is QUITE a popular literary subject, there are a lot of books about her out there and most of them are really informative. We’ve read so many that listing them all would bore you. You really can’t go wrong with anything written by David Starkey or Alison Weir.

In Public and in Private; Elizabeth and Her World by Susan Watkins (Book Beckett highly recommended)

For kids- while not Tudor centered, Anne Boleyn is profiled in this first of a series by Author/Illustrator Lisa Graves (Our friend, the History Witch who we can’t talk about enough because she is pretty fabulous)

The Tudor Tutor has a list of source material she uses (as well as A LOT of information that you might enjoy spending time with).

Since we are sharing websites, here are the ones that  we talked about: (excellent for kids) , (sistersite to Anne Boleyn files) Elizabeth Files , and Being Bess, another really terrific site, On the Tudor Trail (this link will take you to a post on Hatfield house)

So, you’re visual. Here is a link to a particularly terrific documentary- The Virgin Queen David Starkey (We told you you really can’t go wrong with Starkey)

And after that highbrow educatin’ you earned yourself a nice Horrible Histories bender.

Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England – follow this video (and book) along as historian Ian Mortimer shows what life is like for the non-regal set during this era.

This American Life Fiasco Episode!

Pottage recipe from the Elizabethan era, just like Beckett promised. (And a really interesting site for people who like to eat their way through history!)

Keen eared listeners might remember a very clever letter that we read a few seasons ago from long-time friend, Tom.  He is currently living in Scotland, and offers this interesting addition to the legacy portion of Elizabeth’s story. (We didn’t talk about this during the episode, but link it nonetheless because Tom is a very loyal listener and History Nerd of the highest caliber.) Operation Highlander

And because we like to make Doctor Who references as much as we like to make Harry Potter references…the 1st Doctor visited her, the 10th visited TWICE: once with companion Martha in the Shakespeare Code…and then there was much jubilation when this happened on the 5oth Anniversary special:

I do…what?

End song: “Leaf in the Tree”, by Frozen Ocean Wave

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at

Episode 40 – Tudor Grandmothers (rebroadcast)

Posted 29 July 2013 by
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Tudor Grandmothers Revisited

Posted 29 July 2013 by
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A year and a half ago we sat down to talk about Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville. Since then a lot of you have joined us…and a lot of you are really excited about the television show The White Queen, which is  based on the novel series THE COUSINS’ WAR, by Philippa Gregory.  So are we!  (So excited) (So very excited)  Here in the good ol’ US of A the show begins on the Starz network on August 10th, 8 PM ET/PT, so we thought that this was a good time to brush up on the stories of the women who would become grandmothers to our favorite bad guy, Henry VIII.

Because we posted portraits on our original shownotes, we thought that  getting the faces of the actresses playing the parts into our heads would be a good idea.

Elizabeth Woodville, played by Rebecca Ferguson ( Courtesy Starz)

Margaret Beaufort, played by Amanda Hale (Courtesy Starz)

Starz has a very slick website (facebook page and twitter) for this show which makes talking about it with other fans really easy.
The shownotes from the original episode, including book recommendations, from our original posting are here: SHOWNOTES.

And if you are in the UK, you can watch entire episodes online here: BBC ONE

Episode 31 – Lady Jane Grey

Posted 30 September 2012 by
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Episode 30: Queen Mary I

Posted 16 September 2012 by
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