Monday, October 29, 2012

Question from Daire - David Loades' books

I was wondering what the opinion on David Loades is. I have read that he is a well respected historian but I purchased his Mary Rose book and was deeply disappointed. I was thinking about buying his biography on Katherine Howard, and his book on Jane Seymour which is due out in January, but I'm not sure to bother. Has anyone read his other books, and would they suggest them?


Marilyn R said...

I think the customer reviews on Amazon say it all. I bought this book and am very disappointed. Of the 188 pages Katherine does not appear until half way through, and it is all over for her by page 169. There is an awful lot of filler and not much Katherine, and what there is offers nothing new. Nor does the author attempt to analyse her behaviour to any degree, which really disappointed me. Not as good a read as Lacey Baldwin Smith's biography of Queen Katherine.

PhD Historian said...

This is a difficult one for me, since Dr Loades and I do not see eye to eye on so many things, but I must nonetheless rise to his defense. Dr Loades is a meticulous researcher, so much so that he is sometimes reputed to be a walking, talking human catalogue of the Tudor State Papers. I have read many of his works, and I have great respect for his scholarship.

On the other hand, he has become something of a "writing machine", churning out multiple books per year for each of the last few years and with many others in the production line, as yet unwritten but already scheduled for release over the next two years. With that sheer volume of publication, the quality of his writing may perhaps be suffering a little.

But it is also important to consider that he writes books that are academic scholarship first and "good reads" only secondarily or incidentally. He writes primarily for other historians (both pro and amateur), not the general public, so he does not necessarily "tell a good story". In that respect, he is VERY different from writers like Alison Weir, who write first and foremost for the average public.

Also, on the subject of Katherine Howard in particular, he was dealing with a subject about which there is precious little information. Howard was a woman and died very young, both of which factors massively reduce her "historical footprint". Even though she was queen consort for a brief time, she simply did not leave behind enough historical records to enable modern historians to reconstruct her life to any great extent. That Loades's book on Howard is largely "filler" is certainly no surprise, given the lack of evidence for Howard. I have to suspect that his book on Seymour will be quite similar, since, like Howard, Seymour was female, was queen consort only briefly, and died quite young. Certainly there are more records surviving for Seymour than for Howard, but not a huge amount more.

Marilyn R said...

I have to apologise for having gone straight to the main section on Queen Katherine in ‘Catherine Howard the Adulterous Wife of Henry VIII’ and having missed the three pages earlier on of the summary of the years between her birth and arrival at Court, and a further paragraph on page 80-81. I had decided to make this apology before I saw PhD’s post.

I have to agree wholeheartedly that Dr. Loades is a well-respected professional historian, and I too have read many of his previous works, but this book is a very, very long way from what could be termed ‘academic scholarship’. For example, Francis Derham, we are told, without supporting references, was ‘something of a favourite’ with the Dowager Duchess. If what Katherine said in her evidence is true, then, yes, the Dowager did ask her to find a position for him at Court, but there could have been a number of reasons for this and I would have thought that someone of the stature of Loades might have gone into this more deeply. It might not be possible to come up with a definitive answer for the old lady’s action, but the questions would be thought-provoking.

I have spent the past four years, on and off, trying to understand what made young Katherine tick, and in spite of many sessions at the British Library, the Howard stronghold at Arundel Castle and pounding the pavements around Old Paradise Street in Lambeth, where she lived with her step-grandmother, ( ‘Trouble in Paradise’) there are still more questions than answers. But it is these very questions that make her, and her associates, more interesting. Who was pulling whose strings, and for what reason? Was this girl really as bad as she was painted by people trying to save their own skins?

I think I am getting a bit cynical in my old age, but now that Anne Boleyn has been done to death in recent years - no pun intended - attention is being turned to the less well-known wives. It is interesting that the Lacey Baldwin Smith biography written in the 1960’s and given then the very appropriate title of ‘Catherine Howard – A Tudor Tragedy’, was recently re-published (also by Amberley) as ‘Catherine Howard – the Queen whose Adulteries made a Fool of Henry VIII’, which is very bizarre, since Katherine, if she committed adultery at all, did so WITH Henry and not against him if she was already pre-contracted to Derham. As for Katherine and Culpeper, we don’t know if she did, and we don’t know if she didn’t. Culpeper wasn’t shy of blaming Katherine for making all the running in their relationship, but nothing, including the agony of torture, would make him confess to adultery with her.

tudor princess said...

I must say I tend to agree with you, Marilyn as David Loades has published 3 books in 6 months. These are Mary Rose, Katherine Howard and the one on Jane Seymour which is due out in February 2013.

This makes me wonder if detailed research is going out of the window as I note the Mary Rose book did not get great reviews on Amazon.

Apparently Lacey Baldwin Smith has a book coming out on Anne Boleyn in the early part of next year.

His books on Katherine and Henry VIII were masterpieces but I must admit, I will approaching this one with trepidation since he is extremely elderly and it is being published by Amberley.

Hope your research on Katherine is moving forward, and not causing you too much frustration!

Marilyn R said...

Tudor Princess,

Many thanks for your interest in my work on Katherine. It is frustrating that there is so little known about her short life, but also that the same old interpretations keep cropping up – as with this latest book by David Loades. I was surprised that an expert like Loades, who has written excellent books in the past, didn’t make more out of what is available about Katherine. Even in the short section devoted her, a dozen pages or so are given over to Jane Rochford’s history, which is relevant, but 12 pages is out of proportion when so little is made of her mistress, who is, after all, the subject of the book.

I still have more to do on Katherine and will try to resist the irrelevant padding, so it will be a shortish volume. It won’t be the conventional summary of her short life either, as it is an attempt to look at the situation as it affected her immediate family at Norfolk House in Lambeth, and to look at the building itself. There will be a lot of questions that I cannot answer – and as far as I can see, neither can anybody else – but my feeling is that no harm will be done in asking them.

I have taken a lot longer over my book on ‘The Bare Bones of Queen Victoria’s Family Trees’ than expected, but have a book signing at last on November 24th at the Victorian Craft Fair at Gainsborough Old Hall (everyone welcome – strange to say, it’s actually going to be in the room where Henry slept when he and Katherine visited in 1541), and once that’s over I’ll be back with the Howards in Lambeth, and in the Tower.

Yes, one wonders about this latest Lacey Baldwin Smith book, which I believe is new and not a rehash of an earlier publication. I’m not being ageist – I’m no spring chicken myself – but he is 90 now. On the other hand, he can probably still write better at 90 than some authors a fraction of his age, myself included.

Thanks again for you interest, I really appreciate it.

Conor said...

Marilyn, I just wondered whether I could possibly obtain your contact details. I have written two essays on Katherine Howard's life, one on her birthdate/childhood and the other on her fall in 1541, and it might be insightful to discuss possible areas of debate with you. I am actually going to be researching and writing a biography of Katherine which I hope to publish next summer/autumn. Your views would be much appreciated.