Fascinated by the Royals - Royal reads worthy of a read
With the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, we are seeing an upsurge in royal news. Prince Philip always seemed to be an honorable man - my view changed slightly after watching the fictional series, The Crown. I saw how hard it must have been for a man to adapt to life behind the Queen. And what a queen! She has held onto her reign for over 69 years! What stories she must be able to tell!
I have been fascinated by royal stories for years starting with Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir’s large novels involving court intrigue and secrets. The many wives of Henry VIII has provided fodder for many a fiction writer! There are also some humorous takes on royal life with Mark Helprin’s Freddy and Fredericka and Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn.
I remember sitting in front of my television captivated by the fairy tale that was the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana. Perhaps it is the pomp and circumstance that draws us in – the same way we are fascinated by pop singers and movie stars. They seem to shine in a way we can only imagine. When a good writer weaves a story about these characters from nobility that brings them down to a level we can relate to, readers can’t help but get caught up.
I will continue to scan the news for updates on Harry and Meghan – and I refuse to feel guilty about it. My escapes into fiction have only enhanced my desire to read about these seemingly untouchable human beings. From the serious to the comic, I can forever be entertained by a royal story!
Try some of these royal reads to liven up your day...
Freddy and Fredericka / Mark Helprin. Freddy is the Prince of Wales, Fredericka his troublesome wife. An overeducated, bumbling anachronism, Freddy commits one glorious gaffe after another, for which he is massacred daily in the British press. Golden-haired Fredericka, frivolous and empty headed, is particularly fond of wearing spectacular clothing with revealing necklines. Because of the epic public relations disasters caused by these wayward heirs to the throne, they are sent, in a little-known ancient tradition, on a quest to colonize a strange and barbarous land: America.
Gone with the Windsors : a novel / Laurie Graham. The scandalous divorcée who led the besotted Prince of Wales to abdicate his throne first appears in the fictional diary of Maybell Brumby as her schoolmate Bessie, a charity girl with pretensions and good cheekbones. "I'm Wallis," she snarls, "and if you call me anything else you're going to be sorry." One social climber swiftly recognizes another. When life's whimsical currents toss these two gilt-edged gold diggers together again as adults, history will change its course.
Katherine of Aragon, the true queen : a novel / Alison Weir. A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage--and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner.
Mrs. Queen Takes the Train : a novel / William Kuhn. Mrs Queen Takes the Train wittily imagines the kerfuffle that transpires when a bored Queen Elizabeth strolls out of the palace in search of a little fun, leaving behind a desperate team of courtiers who must find the missing Windsor before a national scandal erupts.
Secrets of the Tudor Court : pleasure palace / Kate Emerson. Beautiful. Seductive. Innocent. Jane Popyncourt was brought to the court as a child to be ward of the king and a companion to his daughters—the princesses Margaret and Mary. With no money of her own, Jane could not hope for a powerful marriage, or perhaps even marriage at all. But as she grows into a lovely young woman, she still receives flattering attention from the virile young men flocking to serve the handsome new king, Henry VIII, who has recently married Catherine of Aragon.
The Taming of the Queen / Philippa Gregory. Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives—King Henry VIII—commands her to marry him. Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn’s trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as Regent.
To Hold the Crown : the story of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York / Jean Plaidy. Henry Tudor was not born to the throne of England. Having come of age in a time of political turmoil and danger, the man who would become Henry VII spent fourteen years in exile in Brittany before returning triumphantly to the Dorset coast with a small army and decisively winning the Battle of Bosworth Field--ending the War of the Roses once and for all and launching the infamous Tudor dynasty.
Wars of the Roses : stormbird / Conn Iggulden. In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named “The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father's famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court.
Healing through poetry: some of my favorite poets and their works
Last year, I was privileged to put together a poetry series for the Hoover Library featuring original poems by Birmingham poets. The HPL Poets Society brought over twenty readers reciting original works or their favorite poems virtually. (All of these recordings can be found on the Hoover Library YouTube channel.) In doing this series, my passion for poetry was reignited. My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, passed away in 2019 – leaving me to reread her work and mourn. During my grieving, I met and became friends with many Birmingham poets and became involved in D.I.S.C.O. – Desert Island Supply Company. This Woodlawn-based organization works to bring poetry to the schools by placing volunteers where they can help young students create poetry themselves. During my short stint in working with Putnam Middle School in Birmingham, I saw young students creating an outlet for their despair and joy. I saw individuals giving voice to fears. And I believe that is what poetry enables us to do: express feelings and hidden passions with words.
On Tuesday, April 27th at 6 pm, I am working with Salaam Green, a well-known eco-poet and teacher, to bring about healing through poetry. The workshop is free – register for this program here. “Writing to Heal: Healing through Poetry” is co-sponsored by the Magic City Poetry Festival (MCPF). This month MCPF is bringing several events to us here in Birmingham. This will be the second year the festival has gone virtual – allowing participants from all over to participate.
In the meantime, I bring you my very favorite publications from 2019 – 2021. Whether it was Amanda Gorman’s inspiring inaugural poem in January of 2021 or Nikki Giovanni’s powerful words, poetry gives me fuel to understand the world in a different way. I’ve also included my favorite Birmingham poet, Ashley M. Jones, founder of the Magic City Poetry Festival. Explore the words and make them your own during National Poetry Month in April!
dark // thing / Ashley M. Jones. dark // thing is a multifaceted work that explores the darkness/otherness by which the world sees Black people. Ashley M. Jones stares directly into the face of the racism that allows people to be seen as dark things, as objects that can be killed/enslaved/oppressed/devalued. This work, full as it is of slashes of all kinds, ultimately separates darkness from thingness, affirming and celebrating humanity.
Dearly : new poems / Margaret Atwood. In Dearly, Margaret Atwood's first collection of poetry in over a decade, Atwood addresses themes such as love, loss, the passage of time, the nature of nature and - zombies. Her new poetry is introspective and personal in tone, but wide-ranging in topic. In poem after poem, she casts her unique imagination and unyielding, observant eye over the landscape of a life carefully and intuitively lived.
The Hill We Climb: an inaugural poem for the country / Amanda Gorman. On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe.
home body / Rupi Kaur. rupi kaur constantly embraces growth, and in home body, she walks readers through a reflective and intimate journey visiting the past, the present, and the potential of the self. home body is a collection of raw, honest conversations with oneself - reminding readers to fill up on love, acceptance, community, family, and embrace change. Illustrated by the author, themes of nature and nurture, light and dark, rest here.
How to Fly (in ten thousand easy lessons): poetry / Barbara Kingsolver. In this intimate collection, the beloved author of The Poisonwood Bible and more than a dozen other New York Times bestsellers, winner or finalist for the Pulitzer and countless other prizes, now trains her eye on the everyday and the metaphysical in poems that are smartly crafted, emotionally rich, and luminous.
Make Me Rain: poems & prose / Nikki Giovanni. One of America's most celebrated poets challenges us with this powerful and deeply personal collection of verse that speaks to the injustices of society while illuminating the depths of her own heart.
The tradition / Jericho Brown. Jericho Brown's daring new book The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown's poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we've become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive.
Whale Day: and other poems / Billy Collins. Billy Collins's new collection brings together more than fifty poems and showcases his deft mixing of the playful and the serious that has made him one of our country's most celebrated and widely read poets. Here are poems that leap with whimsy and imagination, yet stay grounded in the familiar, common things of everyday experience.