Henry VIII’s Wives Have Their Say

Try Me, Good King

Tudor ensemble comes to venues across the UK in York, Cambridge and London

Classical music ensemble Transposed are bringing Tudor history to life in concert this autumn. The concerts will take place in exclusively Tudor and Elizabethan buildings around the UK and will be performed in specially tailored Tudor dress. British Soprano Eleanor Penfold and Pianist Eleanor Kornas will launch their UK tour in York at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall on 24th October and Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate on 26th October.

The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall is one of the ‘finest Medieval guild halls in the world’ and dates back as early as 1357. Just a stone’s throw from the York Minster stands York’s Holy Trinity on Goodramgate, where you can marvel at stained glass dating as far back at the 1470’s and be whisked back to Medieval times in magical candlelight.

On 1st November Transposed will perform at Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge University, a beautiful and historic site founded by Henry VIII himself. Their final performance will be at the only remaining Elizabethan Church in London, Old Church in Stoke Newington, on 23rd November.

Try Me, Good King

The concert is centred around a powerful set of songs called Try Me, Good King by American composer Libby Larsen. Each song is a musical setting of words that were addressed to Henry VIII by his wives. The evening will feature a feast of fiery females including a haunting encounter with Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth.

Penfold has performed in the BBC Proms as well as the Paris Opera House. ‘This tour is a real celebration of music, Shakespearean theatre and the Tudor period’, said Penfold. ‘Performing within exclusively Tudor buildings in a tailor-made Tudor dress brings audiences the spectacle of the operatic stage or the Globe in completely unique settings’.

Penfold first discovered the song cycle Try Me, Good King during her time at the Royal College of Music in London. ‘I was completely blown away by the power of the work’, said Penfold. ‘The work breathes life into the letters and speeches of Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard.  Far from the well known list, ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived,’ these songs give visceral energy and humanity to each woman’s testament and individual voice.’

Transposed was recently founded to celebrate the incredible spaces we have across the UK and the unique impact they have on performances of Classical music.

Costume Designer and recent graduate of Wimbledon College of Arts, Victoria Rodriguez, says she ‘grew up idolising historical feminist figures and being taught the power they had that’s been written out by men and forgotten over the centuries. I fell in love with the Tudors and specifically the female courtiers and wives of Henry VIII; how they flourished and fell during this iconic monarchy and I couldn’t help but find out more and more information to the point where my obsession took me into my career.’ The incredible costume design of Victoria Rodriguez and fellow Wimbledon College graduate Brontë McFadyean can been seen in the beautiful Tudor dress and specially designed headpieces worn by Penfold throughout the performance.

Having recently performed the notorious role of the Queen of the Night at Waterperry Opera Festival this summer, Penfold says ‘we can’t wait to bring audiences the thrill of a period drama with the passion and beauty of this Classical music’.

How to buy tickets

Tickets for the show cost £15 for adults, £12.50 for under 18, students and disabled audience members. They are now available to purchase online from www.transposed-ensemble.com/events via EventBrite or on the door. 

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Writing The Tudor Trilogy, by Tony Riches

The Tudor Trilogy

Although I was born within sight of Pembroke Castle, I only began to study its history when I returned to the area as a full-time author. I found several accounts of the life of Henry Tudor, (who later became King Henry VII and began the Tudor Dynasty) but there were no novels that brought the truth of his to life.

The idea for the Tudor Trilogy occurred to me when I realised Henry Tudor could be born in book one, ‘come of age’ in book two, and rule England in book three, so there would be plenty of scope to explore his life and times.

I started with a year of research, as I like my novels to be as historically accurate as possible. There are many ways to approach historical fiction, including imaginative ‘alternative histories’, but I feel the role of the historical fiction novelist is to fill in the gaps with a plausible narrative – and explore how people might have reacted to often quite dramatic events. (I’ve also found actual history has more amazing stories than anything I could dream up.)

The first book of the Tudor trilogy was my fourth novel, so I had a good idea about the structure, and it had a ‘natural’ and dramatic end point (not wishing to give anything away for non-Tudor aficionados). In book one, OWEN, a Welsh servant of Queen Catherine of Valois, the lonely widow of King Henry V, falls in love with her and they marry in secret.  Their eldest son Edmund Tudor marries the heiress Lady Margaret Beaufort, and fathers a child with her to secure her inheritance. Unfortunately, Lady Margaret is barely thirteen years old and the birth of her son, Henry, nearly kills her. When her husband dies mysteriously without even seeing his son, his younger brother Jasper Tudor swears to protect them.

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This all takes place during the Wars of the Roses and in book two of the trilogy, JASPER, Owen’s son Jasper Tudor and young Henry flee to exile in Brittany and plan to return and make Henry King of England.  In the meantime, King Richard III has taken the throne and has a powerful army of thousands – while Jasper and Henry have nothing. Even the clothes they wear are paid for by the Duke of Brittany. So how can they possibly invade England and defeat King Richard at the Battle of Bosworth?

In the final book of the trilogy, HENRY, I explore how Henry Tudor brought peace to England by marrying the beautiful daughter of his enemy, King Edward IV. I also wanted to help readers understand how their son, who became King Henry VIII, became such a tyrant and transformed the history of England forever.

Towards the end of final book of the trilogy I began researching the lives of Henry Tudor’s daughters, Mary and Margaret, and became fascinated by Mary Tudor’s story. I realised how she’s often confused with Queen Mary Tudor, and that there was a ‘sequel’ to be written which continued the story of Mary’s time as Queen of France and marriage to Charles Brandon. This was published as MARY- Tudor Princess, and followed with the same story from Brandon’s point of view.

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My newest Tudor novel, which will be out before Christmas, concludes what has now become a series of six books with the story of Brandon’s last wife, Lady Katherine Willoughby, which will be published as KATHERINE – Tudor Duchess. Katherine was fascinating to research as she knew each of King Henry VIII’s six wives, as well as his children Mary, Elizabeth and Edward. Best of all, KATHERINE takes me to the start of the reign of the last Tudor, Queen Elizabeth I – and the start of my new Elizabethan series.

Tony Riches

About the Author

Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives by the sea in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, with his wife and enjoys sailing and kayaking in his spare time. For more information about Tony’s books, podcasts and audiobooks please visit his website www.tonyriches.com and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.