Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House

Originally known as ‘baby houses’, the popularity of dolls’ houses increased throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, through to the twentieth century when arguably one of the most famous dolls’ houses ever was created; Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. 

March 2016

I recently took a detour through the beautiful Northamptonshire village of Ashby St Ledgers – I’d come across the village before, and it was well worth the visit.

Ashby St Ledgers is known for its connections with one family in particular: the Catesby’s. Without a doubt the most famous Catesby is Robert, the leader of the infamous Gunpowder Plot. 

February 2016

This month I’m largely preoccupied with editing Crown of Blood, but it’s exciting, and I can’t wait to share it with you all. I’m also going to be doing a talk about Lady Jane Grey’s mother later in the month – this will be the third occasion I’ve spoken about her, and I always enjoy it.

I recently completed a fantastic weekend course at the Victoria and Albert Museum in order to help with the research for my doctorate. Bedazzled was all about the history of jewellery, and covered prehistoric times right up to the present day. The periods I study are the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but learning about the periods either side really enhanced my understanding. In fact, I’m going back there at the end of the month for a study day about the history of rings, and I’m sure that that will be just as good! Jewellery history is fascinating, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in material culture to consider learning more about it. I’m also a member of the Society for Jewellery Historians, and they offer some wonderful lectures for members. One of my favourite pieces in the V and A collection has to be the Drake Jewel, which is on loan to the museum.

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Antonio Verrio, Heaven & Hell at Burghley House

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In 1687, the fifth Earl of Exeter commissioned Antonio Verrio to decorate six rooms at his ancestral Lincolnshire home, Burghley House.

Having been employed by the Crown for many years on a variety of commissions, including the ceilings of Charles II’s State Apartments at Windsor Castle, Verrio was amply qualified for his task at Burghley. The most famous of the decorated rooms are the Heaven Room and the Hell Staircase, some of the most important Baroque private rooms in England. 

January 2016

Happy New Year! I hope that 2016 brings you happiness and prosperity! I normally dread January, but there’s no time for that this month, and I have plenty to look forward to! My new book is in the process of being edited, very exciting! In the meantime, I’ve had plenty of things to occupy my time. I paid a visit to one of my favourite places, Stratford Upon Avon, to see Helen Edmundson’s fantastic play, Queen Anne. 

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December 2015

The countdown to Christmas has now begun! Like most people, while preparing for the festive season I am also busy working on a number of projects. I’ve been putting together some ideas for new book proposals – watch this space! I’ve also been working on talks for next year and it’s going to be very busy.

This year I’ve become particularly interested in churches, and have made a conscious effort to visit more of them. With Christmas approaching, it seems a particularly appropriate topic to post about, and an ideal time to tell you about a church I enjoyed visiting last week. It was the church of St Giles Cripplegate in the City of London – somewhere I’ve been meaning to visit for ages. The first challenge for me was finding it, but 250px-StGilesCripplegatewhen I did I discovered that it was well worth it! My interest had been drawn to the church because of its links with some of those who feature in the story of Lady Jane Grey – her cousin Sir Francis Willoughby is buried there, as is the martyrologist John Foxe (see image below). Foxe used to preach at St Giles’, and his sermons were sometimes known to last for two or three hours! 

November 2015

This month is all about one person: Lady Jane Grey of course! I’m putting the finishing touches to my new biography, Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, and I’ve been very busy following up some last minute leads. November was a momentous month for Jane, as on 13 November 1553 she stood trial for treason alongside her husband at Guildhall. You’ll be able to read all about it in my book! I was very excited when my copy of Nicholas Rowe’s play, Lady Jane Grey: A Tragedy in Five Acts arrived. Representations of Jane in the centuries following her death could form a book in their own right, and are utterly fascinating. She’s certainly a popular figure. 

October 2015

This month is an interesting one – I’ll be going to several talks at the BBC History Festival in Malmesbury, and I’m looking forward to speaking at the WI group in Midsomer Norton about Lady Frances Brandon. Frances was the mother of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, the subject of my forthcoming book. She was an interesting character, and I will definitely be speaking more about her in the future – watch this space!

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September 2015

sept-2015-1Another crazily busy month – lots of travelling and not a lot of sleep! I paid a visit to the ruins of Basing House near Basingstoke, and took time out to visit the church. When I arrived at Basing I was amazed – judging by what survives it’s hard to believe that this was once one of the grandest houses in England with 360 rooms – now reduced to ruins, thanks to the Parliamentarians during the Civil War. My interest had been drawn to Basing by one of its owners, William Paulet, first Marquess of Winchester. It was he who was responsible for much of the building work at Basing, and he who hosted the visits of several of the Tudor monarchs. Paulet did incredibly well under the Tudor regime, and held a variety of offices. He died at Basing House in 1572 in his late eighties – incredibly, he was still in office at the time of his death! He was buried in the church at Basing alongside several of his ancestors, and his tomb can still be seen. 

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