• Humanities & Social Sciences
      November 2017

      Anne Boleyn

      Adultery, Heresy, Desire

      by Amy Licence

      Anne Boleyn’s unconventional beauty inspired poets ‒ and she so entranced Henry VIII with her wit, allure and style that he was prepared to set aside his wife of over twenty years and risk his immortal soul. Her sister had already been the king’s mistress, but the other Boleyn girl followed a different path. For years the lovers waited; did they really remain chaste? Did Anne love Henry, or was she a calculating femme fatale? Eventually replacing the long-suffering Catherine of Aragon, Anne enjoyed a magnificent coronation and gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth, but her triumph was short-lived. Why did she go from beloved consort to adulteress and traitor within a matter of weeks? What role did Thomas Cromwell and Jane Seymour of Wolf Hall play in Anne’s demise? Was her fall one of the biggest sex scandals of her era, or the result of a political coup? With her usual eye for the telling detail, Amy Licence explores the nuances of this explosive and ultimately deadly relationship to answer an often neglected question: what choice did Anne really have? When she writes to Henry during their protracted courtship, is she addressing a suitor, or her divinely ordained king? This book follows Anne from cradle to grave and beyond. Anne is vividly brought to life amid the colour, drama and unforgiving politics of the Tudor court.

    • Humanities & Social Sciences
      July 2012

      In Bed with the Tudors

      The Sex Lives of a Dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I

      by Amy Licence

      Learn what went on behind closed doors in the Tudor court. Illegitimate children, adulterous queens, impotent kings, and a whole dynasty resting on their shoulders. Sex and childbirth were quite literally a matter of life or death for the Tudors - Elizabeth of York died in childbirth, two of Henry VIII's queens were beheaded for infidelity, and Elizabeth I's elective virginity signalled the demise of a dynasty. Amy Licence guides the reader through the births of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York's two sons, Arthur and Henry, Catherine of Aragon's subsequent marriages to both of these men, Henry VIII's other five wives and his mistresses, and the sex lives of his daughters. This book details the experiences of all these women, from fertility, conception and pregnancy through to the delivery chamber, on to maternal and infant mortality. Each woman's story is a blend of specific personal circumstances, set against their historical moment: for some the joys were brief, for others it was a question that ultimately determined their fates.

    • Humanities & Social Sciences
      May 2015

      Living in Squares, Loving in Triangles

      The Lives and Loves of Viginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group

      by Amy Licence

      The lives of the sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf have long been celebrated for their central roles in the development of modernism in art and literature. Inspired by European Post-Impressionism, Vanessa’s experimental work places her at the vanguard of early twentieth-century art, as does her role in helping introduce many key names – Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso – to an unsuspecting public in 1910. Virginia took these artistic innovations and applied them to literature, pushing the boundaries of form, narrative and language to find a voice uniquely her own. Yet their private lives were just as experimental. Forming the core of the Bloomsbury Group, they welcomed into their London and Sussex homes a host of their talented peers and followed their hearts in the pursuit of love. Vanessa’s marriage to art critic Clive Bell was shaken early on by his flirtation with her sister, but this allowed her to find happiness with fellow artist Roger Fry. It was the predominantly homosexual Duncan Grant, though, who would become her lifelong partner, as they shared and decorated their home, Charleston, making it a living showpiece for their art. Virginia’s marriage to Leonard Woolf placed him more in the role of carer than husband, with the pair abstaining from sex and living under a regime designed to meet the needs of Virginia’s fragile mental health. Her meeting with the aristocratic Vita Sackville-West and their lesbian affair led Virginia to write one of the masterpieces of modern literature. What led the sisters to make such choices? How did they reconcile life and art? How did it feel, in early modern Britain, to live outside the social box? The sisters lived bravely, passionately and innovatively; where did this strength and talent come from?

    • Humanities & Social Sciences
      August 2019

      Bohemian Lives

      Three Extraordinary Women: Ida Nettleship, Sophie Brzeska and Fernande Olivier

      by Amy Licence

      Ida Nettleship was a flamboyant Bohemian who gave up a promising artistic career to marry Augustus John. She had five pregnancies in just six years, lived with Augustus and his mistress in a ménage à trois, and died exhausted in childbirth aged thirty. Ida’s story of unconventional love is equalled by two other Bohemian women of the same era: Picasso’s first love Fernande Olivier, who was prominent in the Paris art scene, and the writer Sophie Brzeska, who lived with the artist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, nineteen years her junior ‒ he would die in the First World War and Sophie’s slow descent into mental instability would begin. Bohemian Lives follows the achievements and sacrifices of the three women and how their lives overlapped and contrasted, in education, childbirth, illness, marriage ‒ and psychological disintegration. All three women had a huge influence on their more famous partner and challenged the accepted model of male–female relations of the time. At once touching and harrowing, their struggles for recognition in their own right hold a mirror up to the prejudices of an age – and what being ‘bohemian’ really meant.

    Subscribe to our newsletter