Tudor Royal Women with Tracy Borman
This series of talks will focus on some of the most celebrated women of the Tudor period: from the six wives of Henry VIII to the iconic Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I, her ‘bloody’ sister, Mary, and the tragic Mary, Queen of Scots. It will also shine a light on some of the lesser known but no less fascinating characters who served, influenced or plotted against the Tudor queens and will explore their varying fortunes at the heart of the royal court.
When: 5 sessions, taking place at 7pm BST on Thursdays between 10 June–8 July 2021
Tickets: £50 for all five modules, or £15 per module.
Each lecture lasts 45 minutes and is followed by a 15-minute Q&A session.
Tracy Borman is a bestselling author and historian, specialising in the Tudor period. Her books include Elizabeth’s Women, which was Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4; Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant, which was a Sunday Times bestseller; The Private Lives of the Tudors; and, most recently, Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him. Tracy has presented a number of history programmes for Channel 5, Yesterday and the Smithsonian Channel. She works part- time as joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and as chief executive of the Heritage Education Trust.
1. Queens Consort
When: Thursday 10 June 2021, 7pm BST
This opening talk from historian Tracy Borman will provide an introduction to the position of women in Tudor society, focusing primarily on the Tudor court. It will tell the story of the first Tudor queen consort, Elizabeth of York, whose marriage to Henry VII united the warring Houses of York and Lancaster. It will also chart the tumultuous history of the most famous consorts of the Tudor era: the six wives of Henry VIII. In so doing, it will consider these women in their own right, not just in the context of their relationship with the much-married monarch.
3. Women at Court
When: Thursday 24 June 2021, 7pm BST
This talk will consider what life was like for the women who attended and served at the Tudor court. It will explore the various roles that women fulfilled and how they were able to exploit these for political, as well as financial gain. In so doing, it will introduce a dazzling cast of characters: from Anne Boleyn’s infamous sister-in-law, Lady Rochford to Mary I’s cherished attendant, Jane Fool, and from loyal servants such Elizabeth I’s childhood nurse, Blanche Parry, to the so-called ‘flouting wenches’ such as Lettice Knollys and Bess Throckmorton who seduced her closest favourites.
5. The Private Life of Elizabeth I
When: Thursday 8 July 2021, 7pm BST
This talk will take the audience behind closed doors to explore the private life, loves and scandals of the Tudor era’s most celebrated monarch. Elizabeth I once declared: ‘A thousand eyes see all I do’. Interweaving eye-witness accounts with the Elizabeth’s own testimony, Tracy will cast new light on the vexed question of whether she really was the Virgin Queen and will explore her scandalous, fifty-year relationship with ‘Sweet Robin’, Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester’. She will also reveal other aspects of the queen’s private life: how she was dressed and washed, her eating and sleeping habits, hobbies and friends.
2. Queens Regnant
When: Thursday 17 June 2021, 7pm BST
Henry VIII’s desire for a son drove him to have his first marriage annulled, execute his second wife and overturn the entire religious life of England. Yet Edward VI, only reigned for six years, so the future of the Tudor dynasty hung on its female members. Tracy will compare and contrast the queenship of the three women who succeeded Edward: the ‘Nine Days’ Queen’, Lady Jane Grey, his notorious elder half-sister, ‘Bloody Mary’, and Elizabeth I, who defied the contemporary prejudice against female rulers to become the most successful of all the Tudor monarchs.
4. Rivals to the Throne
When: Thursday 1 July 2021, 7pm BST
Ironically, given the prejudices against female rule, some of the most deadly rivals to the Tudor throne were women. Henry VIII was so paranoid about the so-called ‘White Rose’ faction, led by Edward IV’s niece, Margaret Pole, that his brutality towards them sent shockwaves across Europe. All of his daughter Elizabeth’s deadliest rivals were women. Her long reign was dominated by her turbulent relationship with Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as by the lesser-known but no less potent rivals such as Lady Margaret Douglas and the ill-fated sisters of Lady Jane Grey.
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