On this day . . . January 15th

January 15th 1559
Elizabeth I is crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey

Elizabeth, the daughter of King Henry VII and Anne Boleyn was the third Tudor child to be crowned monarch of England following her half-brother Edward VI and her half-sister Mary. The lavish coronation was planned on the advice of John Dee, an astrologer, mathematician and astronomer, who deemed January 15th to be the most auspicious date and 12pm the most promising time for her coronation.
As per tradition, Elizabeth’s coronation procession began at the Tower of London, the same place where her own mother was imprisoned and beheaded and where she herself had been imprisoned a few years earlier – we can only imagine what was going on in Elizabeth’s mind. During her coronation procession Elizabeth was welcomed wholeheartedly by her citizens and was greeted with 5 pageants.
Elizabeth I reigned as Queen for 44 years, from November 17th 1558 until March 24th 1603 and it was during the Elizabethan era that English drama flourished and England enjoyed a time of relative peace and prosperity. 

The Maid ~ Kimberly Cutter

Set in the 1500s during the Hundred Years War, the French city of Orléans is under siege – English soldiers tear through the countryside wreaking destruction on all those who cross their path, and Charles VII, the uncrowned king, has neither the strength nor the will to rally his troops. In a quiet garden in Domremy, a twelve-year-old peasant girl, Jehanne, hears a voice that will change her life – and the course of European history. This is the tale of Jehanne d’Arc, the saint and the warrior who believed that she had been chosen by God to save France, and who lead an army of 10,000 soldiers against the English.


I was initially really excited to read this novel as I have not come across many Historical Fiction novels based on Jehanne d’Arc and I have to say that I was honestly disappointed in this novel. The story itself was fine; however the writing irritated me beyond belief. I found the writing to be very amateur – it was full of fragment sentences and it was really choppy. I also had a problem with Cutter translating the terms of endearment that the Saints used when speaking with Jehanne. Throughout the novel Saint Catherine calls Jehanne “cabbage” which seems strange to most readers but in French a common term of endearment is “mon petit chou” which translates into “my little cabbage”. I also hated the super short chapters; it made me feel like the book was never going to end. I do have to give Cutter credit for her obvious dedication to research but sometimes it felt like she was trying to stick to the known facts of Jehanne’s life and there was little room for the ‘fiction’ part of the historical fiction genre – it’s almost like a fiction book written as if it were a non-fiction. The details about the battles were great and those parts of the story I thoroughly enjoyed. I had a hard time with Jehanne however – I’m not sure if she was ever fully developed as a character and I couldn’t connect with her. This was good effort from Cutter but unfortunately it doesn’t make my cut as a great novel, it would have been much better as a non-fiction piece.  


On this day . . . January 10th

Charles Ingalls (1938 - 1902)

Charles Phillip Ingalls was born January 10th 1836 in New York and was the second of nine children. Charles married Caroline Quiner on February 1st 1860 and the pair had 5 children: Mary, Laura, Carrie, Freddie and Grace. Throughout his life, Charles had a strong case of “wanderlust”. He loved travelling and did not like living among crowds of people, so with his family in the early years, they traveled quite a bit moving from their original home in Wisconsin, to Indian Territory in south-eastern Kansas, back to Wisconsin, to southern Minnesota, Iowa, back to Minnesota and finally to Dakota Territory, ultimately settling in De Smet, South Dakota. He worked as a farmer and carpenter as well as an occasional hunter, tradesman and storekeeper. Charles died June 8th, 1902 at the age of 66. 

Charles Ingalls was immortalized in his daughter's Little House on the Prairies series as "Pa". Laura Ingalls Wilder's series begins when she was a young girl living in the Big Woods of Wisconsin and tells the story of the Ingalls family, throughout their travels - their struggles and the good times. 


On this day . . . January 8th

1499 – Louis XII of France marries Anne of Brittany
Anne of Brittany was the only woman to be fortunate enough to be married to not just one king of France but to two Kings. First she was married to Charles VIII and upon his death in 1498 when she was just 21 years old; she was legally obligated to marry the new king, Louis XII. This proved to be a small problem as the new king was already married to Joan, the old king’s sister! Anne thought that this could be her escape from the French court so she agreed to marry Louis if he obtained an annulment from Joan within a year – a task that she believed would be impossible, therefore freeing her from yet another marriage of duty and enabling her to return home to Brittany to rule there. Unfortunately for her, the marriage was dissolved by the Pope before the year was out.
January 8th 1499 Anne married Louis XII wearing white, setting a precedent for future brides. The marriage produced two daughters, Claude and Renée, the former would marry the heir to the French throne Francis of Angoulême and become Queen of France herself. Since there were no sons, and none seemed likely to appear, Louis had his wife set aside for her inability to produce an heir.  

Twice a Queen of France: 
Anne Brittany 
by Mildred Allen Butler


On this day . . . January 6th

6 January 1540 – 

King Henry VIII marries Anne of Cleves 

Lady Anne of Cleves found herself to be the (un)fortunate 4th wife of Henry VIII on January 6th 1540. After the death of wife #3, Jane Seymour, the only wife thus far to provide dear Henry with a legitimate male heir, the mourning king remained single for a record length of time, a whole 18 months (!) before he went looking for wife #4. After being rejected by Christina of Denmark, who supposedly told an English ambassador that "If I had two heads, one should be at the King of England's disposal”, his choice turned to the two sisters of the Duke of Cleves. Upon seeing Anne’s portrait, Henry was thrilled and negotiations for the wedding were imminent and Lady Anne arrived in England in 1539 and was immediately treated like a queen.

The courtship really did not start out well. Instead of waiting patiently at Greenwich Palace, Henry decided to ride out and meet her at Rochester. Upon seeing his bride-to-be, Henry was extremely disappointed with her appearance and later, in one of his many disguises, he kissed his wife to be, who then pushed him away and swore in German. After being ignored, it was then that Henry revealed his true identity. Oops . . . awkward . . . Not the best way to start out a relationship and this was the beginning of a doomed marriage, poor Lady Anne of Cleves.

The marriage didn’t last long – from the 6th of January 1540 until the 9th of July 1540 and it was never consummated. However, Lady Anne should count herself lucky as she escaped from the marriage with her head firmly attached to her shoulders with a generous settlement, and Hever Castle, the former home of Anne Boleyn’s family, and she lived out the rest of her life as “The King’s Beloved Sister”. Unfortunately this marriage led to the downfall of Sir Thomas Cromwell, who had arraigned for the marriage – he ended up losing his head as a result of the King’s displeasure.

If you are looking for some great reads about Anne of Cleves and her marriage to King Henry VIII, check out these great titles!

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

 The year is 1539 and the court of Henry VIII is increasingly fearful at the moods of the ageing sick king. With only a baby in the cradle for an heir, Henry has to take another wife and the dangerous prize of the crown of England is won by Anne of Cleves.

She has her own good reasons for agreeing to marry a man old enough to be her father, in a country where to her both language and habits are foreign. Although fascinated by the glamour of her new surroundings, she senses a trap closing around her. Katherine is confident that she can follow in the steps of her cousin Anne Boleyn to dazzle her way to the throne but her kinswoman Jane Boleyn, haunted by the past, knows that Anne’s path led to Tower Green and to an adulterer’s death.
The story of these three young women, trying to make their own way through the most volatile court in Europe at a time of religious upheaval and political uncertainty, is Philippa Gregory’s most compelling novel yet.

My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes

My Lady of Cleves reveals the mesmerizing story of Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife, one of the rare women who matched wits successfully with the fiery king and lived to tell the tale.
Written by world-renowned historical novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes, My Lady of Cleves gives readers an intimate portrait of the warm, unpretentious princess who never expected to become Queen of England. Knowing the king's ravenous desire for a son, and aware of the disastrous consequences of not bearing an heir, Anne of Cleves bravely took on the duty of weathering the Tudor King's temper, whims, arrogance, and irresponsible passions - and won the hearts of his subjects in the process.
A treat for readers of Tudor fiction and those fascinated by the complex relationships of Henry VIII and his wives, My Lady of Cleves leads readers into a world of high drama and courtly elegance.


The Night Circus ~ Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning; no announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. This circus is not like any ordinary circus; this circus opens at dusk and closes at dawn. Within the black and white striped tents awaits an entirely unique experience, a buffet for the senses.

This is Le Cirque des Rêves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, jugglers, acrobats and the fortune-teller, a fierce competition is underway – a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bond by their capricious masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is the perfect stage for an extraordinary battle of imagination and will. As the circus travels around the world, the game is well underway and the lives of all those involved are swept up in a wake of spells and charms. However, once the two illusionists discover their competitor, they begin to think of the game as a beautiful collaboration rather than a competition. Without knowing the rules of the game, Celia and Marco fall head over heels in love – a deep, passionate and magical love. The masters still pull the strings and this unforeseen complication forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.


This book was sitting at the top of my TBR list ever since I first heard of it, and I have to say that it definitely did not disappoint! I will start off by saying that this is a book that you definitely have to read twice. There are so many little details and nuances that add to the story that are missed on your first time through and that you really don’t understand until it’s too late. I will also give forewarning that the book starts off really slowly . . . but don’t give up on it! I promise you that it gets better and better the more of it you read. The plot starts off with a lot of loose strings – so loose that you cannot see the connections between them other than the obvious, Celia and Marco, and you may dismiss them as being “unimportant” but this would be very wrong to do as they all tie back into the story. I found myself flipping back to previous sections and re-reading them in order for them to make sense in the story. I learned very quickly that no small detail should go unnoticed and that they all were important. I have to reiterate this again: you are not going to fully understand the plot or appreciate the story for what it truly is without reading it a second time – I re-read it as soon as I finished it the first time, it was that good!

There are quite a few main characters, each with their own story within the story, which you as the reader have to keep track of – there’s a grand total of 15! Celia, Marco, Bailey, Tara and Lainie Burgess, Mr. Barris, Madame Padva, Friedrick Thessien, Chrandesh Christophe Lefèvre, Prospero, Poppet and Widget, Tsukiko, Isobel, and Alexander. The chapters also vary in POVs, sometimes it is a character from the circus, other times it is as if you are walking through the circus – it almost feels like a choose your own adventure novel at times, without the choices. There is a lot of time and place jumping as well throughout the novel – one chapter you will find yourself in Europe in the 1800s, then you will be in America in the 1900s, then back to Europe again in a different time. Even though these are typically things that annoy me in a novel, this story would not have been as amazing without them. I would have liked a little more time devoted to the love story within the magic of the circus, particularly towards the end of the story, however the rest of the magic makes up for that small feeling of incompleteness and loss.

I am in love with Morgenstern’s style of writing! The details are beyond amazing – she writes with such detail that the images appear crystal clear in front of your eyes, you can almost smell the caramel and other circus smells - it’s almost like magic. Her elaborate descriptions of magical tents and off-beat performers totally drew me into the story and they are one of the biggest reasons why I totally fell in love with this book. Her characters are amazing but it was her creation of this fantasy world that I became obsessed with – Morgenstern has created the circus of my dreams and I am longing for this circus to become a reality (although my rational mind is telling me that this will never happen).

The Night Circus is an intricate, spellbinding tale that will leave you breathless. It has a dream-like quality to it and the story will leave you wanting Le Cirque des Rêves to come to your town so that you can experience it for yourself. I highly recommend it to everyone as it is one of the best cross-genre novels I have read in a long time. 

On this day . . . January 5th

Catherine de Medici
April 13th, 1519 – January 5th, 1589

Not one of the most popular queens that France has ever had . . . Catherine de Medici is usually depicted as cruel, corrupt, and cold towards her daughters yet close to her sons. Catherine appears to have been extremely ruthless and willing to do anything for her sons.  

I don’t think that she was totally to blame for her behaviour as life dealt her a rough deck of cards. She was orphaned when she was an infant; both of her parents, Lorenzo II de Medici and Madeleine de La Tour d’Auvergne, both died just a few weeks after her birth. After the death of her parents she was passed around to other members of her family and used as a pawn in order to secure their own advancement in life. Later she was kidnapped during the Italian Wars and finally she was married off to the Duc d’Orléans, the second son of King Francis I, Henri. 

The wedding took place on the 28th of October 1533 when the bride and groom were only 14 years old. Unfortunately this was not a fairytale wedding – although Catherine was enamoured with her new husband, the feeling was not mutual as Henri much preferred the company of his much older mistress Diane de Poitiers. The marriage was not considered an immediate success as it took 10 year to finally produce an heir – a result of Catherine turning to some very strange remedies such as drinking mule urine and covering herself in cow dung. After the birth of their first child, son Francis in 1544, Catherine had no problems and ended up with a total of 10 children, 7 of which survived infancy.

Upon the death of her husband in July 1559 from a lance to the face, Catherine became regent to her son King Francis II, and then to her other son King Charles IX – and it is believed that without her, it is unlikely that they would have remained in power. Although she never acted as King Henri III’s regent, she still played a major role throughout his reign. Catherine’s sons reigned during an age of almost constant civil and religious war in France which all came to a head in 1572 with the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in which thousands of Huguenots were killed in Paris and throughout France, an event that Catherine seems to shoulder the blame for and that is considered one of her worst decisions of the crown.

For some great reads on Catherine de Medici, pick up

Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner

At the age of fourteen, Catherine de Medici, last legitimate descendant of the Medici blood, finds herself betrothed to the King Francois I’s son, Henri. Sent from her native Florence to France, humiliated and overshadowed by her husband’s life-long devotion to his mistress, when tragedy strikes her family Catherine rises from obscurity to become one of 16th century Europe’s most powerful women.

Patroness of Nostradamus and a seer in her own right, accused of witchcraft and murder by her foes, Catherine fights to save France and her children from savage religious conflict, unaware that her own fate looms before her—a fate that will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, reputation, and the passion of her own embattled heart. . .
From the splendors of the Loire palaces to the blood-soaked battles of the Wars of Religion and haunted halls of the Louvre, this is the story of Catherine’s dramatic life, told by the queen herself.

The Devil’s Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

Born into one of Florence’s most powerful families, Catherine was soon left a fabulously rich heiress by the early deaths of her parents. Violent conflict rent the city state and she found herself imprisoned and threatened by her family’s enemies before finally being released and married off to the handsome Prince Henry of France.

Overshadowed by her husband’s mistress, the gorgeous, conniving Diane de Poitiers, and unable to bear children, Catherine resorted to the dark arts of sorcery to win Henry’s love and enhance her fertility—for which she would pay a price. Against the lavish and decadent backdrop of the French court, and Catherine’s blood-soaked visions of the future, Kalogridis reveals the great love and desire Catherine bore for her husband Henry, and her stark determination to keep her sons on the throne.


The Shadow of the Pomegranate ~ Jean Plaidy

The Shadow of the Pomegranate is the second book in the Katharine of Aragon trilogy, the first being Katharine the Virgin Widow and the last The King’s Secret Matter. Even though it is part of a trilogy, something that I didn’t realize until I was half way through the novel, it is still a great stand alone book. In typical Plaidy fashion, this story effortlessly mixes political intrigue with the character’s personalities as well as their thoughts and actions. This story begins shortly after the marriage of Katharine of Aragon and King Henry VIII and tells the tale of their tumultuous marriage, their desire for heirs and Katharine’s battle between pleasing both her husband and her father at the same time. Like her other novels, Plaidy has many mini-stories playing out in the background at the same time to add those extra details and background to the main story. It is amazing how this is done so naturally that it does not take away from the story or distract from the main characters. It took me a little while to really get into this novel, but it definitely picked up the pace about half way through. I have to say that this was one of my favourite Jean Plaidy novels that I have read thus far. 


On This Day . . . January 1st

Lorenzo "Il Magnifico" de Medici (1449)
Pope Alexander VI/Rodrigo Borgia (1431)

King Louis XII of France (1515)

Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom is proclaimed Empress of India in 1877
Charles II is crowned King of Scotland in 1651