The Hearts and Stomachs of Queens - A Day of Talks

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Southwark Cathedral

London Bridge



United Kingdom

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Southwark Cathedral are delighted to host a day of talks focusing on some of the Queens who shaped our history

About this event

Five of the country's foremost historians on the Tudor period present four different presentations. The day will conclude with a panel discussion with our speakers, who will debate the day's talks and take questions from the audience.

If you are interested in the Tudor period or women's history then join us to find out about the extraordinary women who refused to be overshadowed by kings, Mary Tudor and her complex relationship with her father King Henry VIII, the thirteen day reign of Lady Jane Grey and find out how, as we near Advent and Christmas, Tudor queens and their court made merriment during the festive season.

The day will conclude with a panel discussion featuring the speakers where the audience can ask questions and discuss what has been spoken about during the talks on the day.

This event is in-person only and we have reduced the capacity to ensure there is adequate space between seating.

Sarah Gristwood

10.30am - Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

As religion divided sixteenth-century Europe, an extraordinary group of women rose to power. They governed nations while kings fought in foreign lands. They ruled on behalf of nephews, brothers and sons. They negotiated peace between their warring nations. For decades, they ran Europe. Small wonder that it was in this century that the queen became the most powerful piece on the chessboard.

From mother to daughter and mentor to protégée, Sarah Gristwood follows the passage of power from Isabella of Castile and Anne de Beaujeu through Anne Boleyn – the woman who tipped England into religious reform – and on to Elizabeth I and Jeanne d’Albret, heroine of the Protestant Reformation. Unravelling a gripping historical narrative, Gristwood reveals the stories of the queens who had, until now, been overshadowed by kings.

Sarah Gristwood is the author of four previous books of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century history: the Sunday Times bestseller Arbella: England's Lost Queen; Elizabeth and Leicester; Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses; and the widely-translated Game of Queens. A former journalist, contributing to papers such as the Guardian and the Telegraph, she has also written a number of books on twentieth-century subjects. She features frequently at history festivals, and on radio and television discussing the past and present of Britain's monarchy.

Melita Thomas

11.30am – The King's Pearl: Henry VIII and His Daughter Mary

Mary Tudor has always been known as ‘Bloody Mary’, the name given to her by later Protestant chroniclers who vilified her for attempting to re-impose Roman Catholicism in England. Although a more nuanced picture of the first queen regnant has since emerged, she is still stereotyped, depicted as a tragic and lonely figure, personally and politically isolated after the annulment of her parents’ marriage and rescued from obscurity only through the good offices of Katherine Parr. Although Henry doted on Mary as a child and called her his ‘pearl of the world’, her determination to side with her mother over the annulment both hurt him as a father and damaged perceptions of him as a monarch commanding unhesitating obedience. However, once Mary had finally been pressured into compliance, Henry reverted to being a loving father and Mary played an important role in court life. As Melita Thomas points out, Mary was a gambler – and not just with cards. Later, she would risk all, including her life, to gain the throne. As a young girl of just seventeen she made the first throw of the dice, defiantly maintaining her claim to be Henry’s legitimate daughter against the determined attempts of Anne Boleyn and the king to break her spirit. Following the 500th anniversary of Mary's birth, The King’s Pearl re-examines Mary’s life during the reign of Henry VIII and her complex, dramatic relationship with her father.

Melita Thomas is the co-founder and editor of Tudor Times, a repository of information about Tudors and Stewarts in the period 1485-1625 www.tudortimes.co.uk

Melita has loved history since being mesmerised by the BBC productions of ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ and ‘Elizabeth R’, when she was a little girl. After that, she read everything she could get her hands on about this most fascinating of dynasties. Captivated by the story of the Lady Mary galloping to Framingham to set up her standard and fight for her rights, Melita began her first book about the queen when she was 9. The manuscript is probably still in the attic!

Whilst still pursuing a career in business, Melita took a course on writing biography, which led her and her business partner to the idea for Tudor Times, and gave her the inspiration for writing ‘The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and his daughter Mary’. The research for this book led her to want to know more about the Tudors’ cousins, the Greys, who were prominent members of the court. The result was her second book, 'House of Grey'.

12.30pm - Lunch

Dr. Nicola Tallis

1.30pm – Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey

'Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same'.

These were the words uttered by the seventeen-year-old Lady Jane Grey as she stood on the scaffold awaiting death on a cold February morning in 1554. Forced onto the throne by the great power players at court, Queen Jane reigned for just thirteen tumultuous days before being imprisoned in the Tower, condemned for high treason and executed.

In this dramatic retelling of an often misread tale, historian and researcher Nicola Tallis explores a range of evidence that had never before been used in a biography to sweep away the many myths and reveal the moving, human story of an extraordinarily intelligent, independent and courageous young woman.

Dr Nicola Tallis is a British historian and researcher. Her debut book, Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, was published to wide praise. She has previously lectured at the University of Winchester and worked with Historic Royal Palaces and the National Trust.

Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke

2.30pm – A Tudor Christmas

Christmas in Tudor times was a period of feasting, revelry and merrymaking ‘to drive the cold winter away’. A carnival atmosphere presided at court, with a twelve-day-long festival of entertainments, pageants, theatre productions and ‘disguisings’, when even the king and queen dressed up in costume to fool their courtiers. Throughout the festive season, all ranks of subjects were freed for a short time from everyday cares to indulge in eating, drinking, dancing and game-playing.We might assume that our modern Christmas owes much to the Victorians. In fact, as Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke reveal in this fascinating book, many of our favourite Christmas traditions date back much further. Carol-singing, present-giving, mulled wine and mince pies were all just as popular in Tudor times, and even Father Christmas and roast turkey dinners have their origins in this period. The festival was so beloved by English people that Christmas traditions survived remarkably unchanged in this age of tumultuous religious upheaval.

Alison Weir is the biggest-selling female historian (and the fifth best-selling historian) in the United Kingdom since records began in 1997.

She has published twenty-three titles and sold more than 3 million books - over a million in the UK and more than 2.1 million in the USA. She is now working on two concurrent series of books: Six Tudor Queens, comprising six novels on the wives of Henry VIII, and England's Medieval Queens, a quartet of historical works of non-fiction.

Siobhan Clarke B.A. (Hons) has worked for Historic Royal Palaces for 20 years delivering tours and lectures on Hampton Court, Kensington, the Tower of London and the Banqueting House, Whitehall Palace. She has lectured for the National Trust, U3A, Arts Society and Smithsonian and featured on BBC Radio Women's Hour and Television's Secrets of Henry VIII's Palace. Her published work includes: A Tudor Christmas, in collaboration with Alison Weir, (Jonathan Cape, 2018) and The Tudors: The Crown, The Dynasty, The Golden Age with Linda Collins (Andre Deutsch, 2019). Her latest book, King and Collector: Henry VIII and the Art of Kingship was published by the History Press in 2021 and she is currently working on Gloriana: The Art of Elizabeth I.

3.30pm - Break

3.45pm - Panel Discussion with all five speakers with audience Q&A (Dependent on Covid-19 restrictions)

4.45pm - End


Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?


What are my transport/parking options for getting to and from the event?

There is no parking at the Cathedral so we recommend you come by public transport.  London Bridge overground and underground station is a five minute walk away.

How can I contact the organiser with any questions?

Please contact Ruth Miller by email at ruth.miller@southwark.anglican.org

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

No. You can show your ticket on your phone or tablet.

Is it ok if the name on my ticket or registration doesn't match the person who attends?

Yes that is fine, a ticket for somebody else would make a lovely gift.

Will there be publications by the speakers be available to purchase?

Yes, a range of publications by our fantastic line-up of speakers will be available to purchase on the day, they may even sign them for you!

Does the ticket include lunch?

It doesn't I'm afraid, you are very welcome to visit our Cathedral Cafe or we are located next to Borough Market. 

What about Covid-19?

For events in the library we have reduced capacity from 90 to 60 which will allow the chairs to be further away from each other. The library space will be cleaned beforehand and throughout the day We strongly recommend you use the same chair.

We encourage visitors to wear face coverings, when possible, for the safety of staff, volunteers and visitors.

Hand sanitiser stations are available, across the site, for you to use.

If you or anyone you live with displays symptoms associated with COVID-19, and you are unable to attend, please let us know and we will refund the ticket.

Please note that should this event have to be cancelled or postponed we will contact ticket-holders and issue a full refund. 

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Date and time


Southwark Cathedral

London Bridge



United Kingdom

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Refund policy

No Refunds

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Organiser of The Hearts and Stomachs of Queens - A Day of Talks

Southwark Cathedral has been a place of Christian worship for over 1000 years. Established as a small convent, it grew over the centuries into a priory, which became a parish church and then, in 1905, the Cathedral for the newly created Diocese of Southwark which serves the whole of London south of the river.

The Cathedral’s patchwork architecture bears testament to its past as do the many monuments and memorials inside and outside the church. These are reminders of the rich history of this part of London and our association with such major figures in our creative history, including Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens.

Southwark Cathedral is a place of worship, welcome and friendship, to rejoice in or find rest when you’re weary. We are London’s community Cathedral striving to live the example of Jesus, seeking to be a spiritual home for all and set at the heart of Bankside, buzzing with people and activity, a vibrant cultural and commercial destination.



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