History Weekends 2018: 5 minutes with Nicola Tallis

Lettice Knollys, the cousin of Elizabeth I, began the queen's reign basking in royal favour. By 1578, she was banished from court for daring to marry the queen's favourite, Robert Dudley. At our York and Winchester History Weekends this October, historian Nicola Tallis will explore the fascinating rivalry between the two Tudor women...

Nicola Tallis.

We caught up with Nicola Tallis ahead of her talk, Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, at our History Weekends in York and Winchester this autumn…

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Q: What can audiences look forward to in your talk at our History Weekends in York and Winchester?

A: A jealous Tudor queen, a bitter rivalry, a dramatic cat-fight and an enduring grudge!

Q: Why are you so interested in this period of history?

A: The story of Lettice Knollys has never been told before, which is unusual considering the popularity of the Tudor period. It’s an explosive tale that shows many of the well-known figures from the Tudor court in a different light, while introducing some lesser-known figures at the same time.

Winchester speaker programme:

Download timetable here

Audience at Winchester History Weekend 2017.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise or shock us about this area of history…

A: Elizabeth I is extremely popular, but she doesn’t always emerge in a very good light. As I’ll reveal in my talk, there is definitely another side to her character – and one that is not at all attractive. We’ll see more of ‘Elizabeth the woman’ as opposed to ‘Elizabeth the queen’ who has been so revered by history. It’s not very flattering!

Elizabeth I, queen of England and Ireland, c1588. (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

Q: What is your favourite ‘little-known fact’ from history?

A: I’ve been studying the account books of Anne of Cleves recently. She arguably gets the least attention out of all of Henry VIII’s six wives, but she did in fact make the most of her six-month reign and kept herself busy ordering expensive clothes and elaborate jewels. I was both surprised and delighted to find that she had her own pet parrot, complete with keeper!

Q: Which three historical figures would you invite to a dinner party and why?

  1. Queen Anne Neville. Frustratingly little is known of her life. I’d love to know if Anne was happily married to Richard III and how she felt about the events of 1483, when King Edward IV unexpectedly died and Richard declared himself king of England.
  2. King Louis XIV of France. He has always fascinated me, and even more so since watching the TV series Versailles! All of the intrigues of the French court and Louis’s various mistresses enthrall me. Plus, I have always wanted to ask him what inspired him when creating the Chateau de Versailles.
  3. Anne Frank. Her story is such a sad one, and to have the opportunity to speak to her about her experiences in hiding during the Second World War would be very moving.

York speaker programme:

Download timetable here

Audience members at York History Weekend 2017.

Q: If you had to live in any historical time period, which would you choose and why?

A: I’d choose to live in the time of the ancient Egyptians because I’m fascinated by everything about them – pyramids, mummification, hieroglyphics and most importantly, their beauty tricks. I love the idea of milk baths, honey and milk masks, and using burnt almonds to paint your eyebrows!

Q: Which history book(s) would you recommend (excluding your own)?

A: Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe (2016) by Sarah Gristwood is exceptional. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, it gives a brilliant European perspective of queenship in the 15th and 16th centuries.

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Nicola Tallis will be talking about Lettice Knollys and Elizabeth I at our Winchester History Weekend on Sunday 7 October and at our York History Weekend on Saturday 20 October. To find out more about her talk and to book tickets, click here.