Customer Review

14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good; what a shame it wasn't properly documented, 26 Jan 2011
This review is from: Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty (Hardcover)
I thought Elizabeth Norton's She-Wolves: The Notorious Queens of England was just plain dreadful - with good reason - but surprise, surprise, this biography of Margaret Beaufort is actually very good. It has the usual modern-day problem of imperfect editing, though in a reversal of the usual problem, it suffers from too many commas rather than not enough. There is also a statement on p. 12 that Richard II "imposed no limits on the Beaufort's new status". This refers to all the Beauforts, so should be "the Beauforts's new status" - preferably with the second `s' omitted, since the word ends in `s'. Do editors know anything these days?

But aside from these minor problems the text is very readable, and nowhere near as superficial as that of She Wolves. The book also contains a theory I had never read before: that Henry VII's father Edmund Tudor, son of Catherine de Valois and (presumably) her second husband Owen Tudor, may have been fathered by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, an uncle of Margaret Beaufort's with whom Catherine may have had an affair in the late 1420s. I had read elsewhere (in Lisa Hilton's Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens) that Edmund Beaufort and Catherine de Valois wanted to marry around this time, but that Parliament passed a law that would have caused Edmund Beaufort to lose his property and possessions if he married the Queen without official permission, with the result that he lost interest in her. Anyway, this is what Norton has to say (p. 37-38):

"It is possible that Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor might have been rather more closely related than previously realised. Edmund Tudor's birth was veiled in considerable secrecy, and he was not born in one of Catherine of Valois's own properties, with the Queen instead travelling to Much Hadham, a manor belonging to the Bishop of London in order to give birth in the greatest possible privacy. The name Edmund was an odd choice for Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor and deserves some further comment. Before her relationship with Owen Tudor began, Catherine had been romantically linked with Margaret Beaufort's uncle, Edmund Beaufort, the future Duke of Somerset, and the pair had hoped to marry. Any man that Catherine married would become the King's stepfather, with a good claim to the regency during his minority. Beaufort was a controversial choice amongst the King's council, which was already deeply divided by a dispute between the King's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, and his great uncle, Cardinal Beaufort. In 1426, parliament made a formal request to the regency council that they cease their refusals to allow Catherine to remarry. It is likely that Catherine petitioned parliament for their aide herself. Henry VI's council was determined to prevent Catherine from making any new marriage, and in the parliament of 1429 to 1430, a statute was passed legislating on the remarriage of dowager queens. The new law ordered that anyone who dared marry the Queen without the King's express permission would have his lands and property confiscated and effectively meant that Catherine could not remarry until Henry VI obtained his majority. This put an end to Beaufort's ambition to marry the Queen, but given the choice of the name Edmund for her eldest son by her second marriage, it is possible that she and Beaufort had already been lovers and that her relationship with Owen Tudor, a man of such low status that the advantages of a marriage to the Queen far outweighed the risks, may have proved necessary in order to ensure that Catherine did not bear an illegitimate child."

Sensationalist poppycock, or a possibility? Who knows; historians can squabble over that one. Though if Edmund Tudor was fathered by a Plantagenet cousin of Henry VI's father, rather than by a penniless Welshman, and if Henry VI knew this, it could explain why he considered a half-brother of dubious legitimacy fit to marry Margaret Beaufort, who was a great heiress and a possible heir to the throne (or mother of them) in the event that Henry VI's line died out, as ultimately proved the case. It would mean Edmund Tudor was not only Henry VI's half-brother through their mother, but also an illegitimate member of the English royal family and Henry's second cousin, their fathers being sons of half-brothers Henry IV and John Beaufort, both sons of John of Gaunt.

The book has no proper citations (hence no possibility of five stars), but from the notes for Chapter 3, it looks as if Norton's source may be R. A. Griffiths' 2004 The Reign of Henry VI - though given the absence of citations, she could just as easily be the first to put forward this theory. If it turned out to be true, it would mean the Tudors were not Tudors, but Plantagenets/Beauforts. I had noticed that Henry VII bore a strong resemblance, in some of his portraits, to Richard II (the same narrow face, pursed-up mouth, semi-circular eyebrows and steely, suspicious-looking eyes). Of course, I just assumed he took heavily after his Plantagenet mother. Now it turns out his father may have been a first cousin of his mother, and a Plantagenet too. That would certainly explain the striking resemblance that Henry VII and his eldest son Arthur bore to Richard II.

In summary, it's a very good book that could have been even better had it been properly documented. Ms Norton, in your next book, please cite a source for every statement of fact!
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Jan 2011 03:57:37 GMT
Dear Anonymous who hit the "No" button,
Would you be so kind as to post some feedback explaining why the above review was not helpful, and how it could have been improved and made helpful? Those who are in a position to criticise presumably think they could do better. Perhaps they could explain precisely how they would have done better.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jan 2012 12:22:59 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Jan 2012 12:24:29 GMT
PennyW says:
I thought it was too long and self indulgent with too much content and too few paragraghs.I felt the tone was set by the fussy remarks regarding a point of punctuation which, while technically correct, ignores the mutability of language over time and through usage.I always have a suspicion, when I see these kinds of reviews, that the writer wants to be an author rather than a reviewer.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2012 02:30:54 GMT
That answers that question, thank you.

The too much content may be due to shock at finding something in an Elizabeth Norton book worth reading, and even quoting and discussing. Her other books are pretty superficial. As for sticking the apostrophe before the "s" in "Beauforts", there's nothing mutable about that mistake. I know these days it's often considered acceptable to leave a possessive apostrophe off the end of years or months - as in "three years experience" instead of "three years' experience" - but this wasn't left off. It was stuck inside the word instead of at the end of it.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2012 14:27:37 GMT
PennyW says:
But is it really important? I think omissions in punctuation are much more important, ie a long sentence not broken up by any punctuation. The point of punctuation is as a politeness to the reader (punc from the latin for politeness)to make it easier and clearer to read.
I think picking up on that point in the first paragraph of your review weakened the review.I am sure you do not want to seem pedantic but it does give your whole review that feeling of being preached at.As I say,I am sure you do not want to give this impression, your warm words of encouragement to post feedback on the review show that you do not mind criticism!

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2012 01:37:20 GMT
Indeed the review is rather pedantic, but I find it disappointing when even books put out by major publishers are full of clumsy mistakes. Amberley say on their website that they're the fastest-growing history publisher in the UK, yet they won't edit their books properly even though they're presumably making plenty of money? David Loades' biography of Henry VIII, which they published last year, was also full of mistakes. I reviewed it on Amazon.com and pointed out a few of the mistakes, which even included mixing up "their" and "there". If they suffer enough embarrassment from having their typos pointed out, maybe they'll improve their editorial standards.

As for criticism of the review that's certainly fine, but we may have to agree to disagree over the vagrant apostrophe in "imposed no limits on the Beaufort's new status". Logically, it reads as if "the Beaufort" was a single human being, when it refers to all members of the family.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2012 13:06:12 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jan 2012 13:08:31 GMT
PennyW says:
Yes, I find it is really annoying when you are suddenly brought up short by a spelling mistake or glaring grammatical error when reading a book.I was reading a biography of Mary, Queen of Scots recently when the book referred to "drafts behind the tapestries"! For a moment I wondered whether I was going mad, but then thought,"yes, it should be spelt draughts!"It is very sloppy, and probably down to spellchecking without the human element of common sense and literacy.I also wonder sometimes whether it is american spelling adopted by the publishing house. I plan to write to them in future when I notice bad mistakes and see if I get a reply and whether they can justify it!
I can see the justification behind you pointing out their mistakes in your reviews but it affects the review and do the publishers even see it? Can you send them a copy of your review and show you have remarked on their clumsy mistakes? You are right, they make a lot of money and I think they should set an example for correct grammer and certainly correct spelling!

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2012 23:17:12 GMT
I've let publishers know about mistakes in books before - actual factual errors in history books, not typos - and never heard a word in response, so my impression is that they don't much care. I've given up bothering.

I'm sure I've seen that draught/draft mistake somewhere before. The most recent example of a grating homophone was in Karen Harper's The Queen's Governess: "I tugged on the gown and sleeves I'd discarded like a wonton last night to fall into John's arms" (p. 257). A wanton, or course, is an abandoned woman - and a wonton is a dumpling. On one of my reviews someone also complained about a caption in Robert Hutchinson's biography of Thomas Cromwell that has him "pouring over paperwork" instead of "poring".

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2012 23:57:35 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jan 2012 00:11:10 GMT
PennyW says:
That quote about the wonton made me giggle! I don't think I would have gone on to finish the book after that though! My daughter usually has subtitles on the television when I go over( because she has two young boys) and they are often hilarious( subtitles, that is). Just before Christmas there was an article in the London Metro paper about a glitch in the subtitle software.It was censoring everything according to it('?)s own warped logic. One example that really amused me was that it was supposed to write "canal" but censored it to"c****"!It was messing up all kinds of words until they fixed it,but it made me laugh.
Re typo's or mistakes in publishing,what can you do...?
I think language is rich and wonderful and publishers should take pride in producing books. I get books from charity shops sometimes, but can't read them if someone has gone through "correcting" mistakes. You sound too level headed to do that though! X
Ps let me know whether the apostrophe I put in brackets is correct as I was in two minds about it.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jan 2012 00:13:58 GMT
PennyW says:
That quote about the wonton made me giggle! I don't think I would have gone on to finish the book after that though! My daughter usually has subtitles on the television when I go over because she has two young boys, and they are often hilarious( subtitles, that is)Just before Christmas there was an article in the London Metro paper about a glitch in the subtitle software.It was censoring everything according to it's own warped logic. One example that really amused me was that it was supposed to write "canal" but censored it to"c****"!It was messing up all kinds of words until they fixed it,but it made me laugh.Re typo's or mistakes in publishing,
what can you do...?I think language is rich and wonderful and publishers should take pride in producing books. I get books from charity shops sometimes, but can't read them if someone has gone through "correcting" mistakes. You sound too level headed to do that though! X
PS Let me know whether the apostrophe I put in brackets is correct as I was in two minds about it.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jan 2012 06:03:21 GMT
I don't think anyone can blame technology for the 'wonton'. The book wasn't littered with typos so I assume both a copy editor and a proofreader worked on it, yet somehow it got past both.

I do correct mistakes in my own books. Re the apostrophe in brackets, I assume you mean "it('?)s". There's no apostrophe there, since "it's" is only used as a contraction of "it is". The easiest way to check is to separate it into two words, e.g. "It was censoring everything according to it is own warped logic." If it's not "it is" then there's no apostrophe, since "its" isn't a contraction of two words. Once I learned that rule, it was easy to always get it right.
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