Reading is one of the most important skills we can develop. It’s something we use, and have to use, on a daily basis. It is impossible to function effectively without it. I can’t remember ever having not been able to read but there must have been a time when I couldn’t do it. I’m told I struggled a bit at school and needed some extra lessons but the teacher found out I was quite good and used me to help other kids. I thought I had been selected for an extra treat. I obviously got the hang of it as I ended up getting a good degree from Manchester University. 

I can remember clearly what turned me on to reading. My teacher in what is tnow called Year 3 (I’d be 7) had this system where if you progressed well enough along a path on a chart she had on the wall, you were rewarded with a form that allowed you to go to the local public library and join. I desperately wanted that. And when I got it, I was always there borrowing books that took my fancy. After that happened I guess I taught myself.

But some people, especially boys, struggle still. There are too many active, exciting things that they can do that sound better than sitting quietly and reading oa book. People are always trying to do things to encourage people to read. These book benches, decorated with characters from famous books, turned up in Central Library this weekend.

And these ones I found lining the Winter Gardens of the Arndale Centre shopping mall in the city centre.

I have to read for work but I also read for pleasure. So what am I reading now?

After reading all those books set in Anglo Saxon England I’ve jumped 500 years or so to Tudor England and I’m reading a book called ‘Three Sisters, Three Queens’ by fêted author, Phillipa Gregory.

It’s set in the years after the War of the Roses which saw the end of the Plantagenet dynasty of monarchs and the ascendency of the Tudor dynasty after the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, near Leicester, in 1485. Calling it the War of the Roses makes it sound a very cosy, civilised English sort of war. It was anything but and the Game of Thrones story, not known for holding back on the violence, with the dynastic battles between House Lannister and House Stark, was partially based on this period of history. 

Henry Tudor won and became Henry VII. He married a Plantagent princess as his claim to the throne wasn’t that strong. He had four surviving children, Arthur, Margaret, Henry and Mary. The book is told from the point of view of Margaret who is married off to James IV of Scotland as part of a peace deal with that country. Quite a common thing to happen to a prince or princess in those days. She is the first queen, Queen of Scotland. She had quite a happy marriage even though James was 10 years or so her senior. He’d had quite a lot of fun while he was waiting to get married and Margaret arrived at her new castle in Scotland to find it full of the illegitimate offspring of his liaisons with assorted Scottish ladies who had taken his fancy. I believe a lot of that sort of thing goes on in Game of Thrones. 

Her elder brother, Arthur, was married to Katherine of Aragon, the daughter of the King and Queen of Spain. They were the Ferdinand and Isabella who drove the Muslim Moors out of Spain finally, and sent Christopher Columbus out west to get to India. He found America instead. Katherine and Arthur are married and packed off to enjoy their newly married status in Ludlow Castle. Arthur gets ill and dies of the ‘sweats.’ We don’t have them these days, they seem to have died out. Poor Katherine is a widow half way through her teens. She comes back to London. The alliance with Spain is too important to lose so they marry Katherine off to Arthur’s younger brother, Henry. They get round the fact that she’s been married to his brother (illegal in England in those days and probably still the same today, I’ve never heard of it happening anyway) by saying Arthur was too ill to consummate the marriage. Well he wasn’t ill ALL the time they were in Ludlow and if you put two hormonal teenagers in a bed and EXPECT them to have fun, I can’t imagine them saying  ‘no, I’ve got a headache (bad case of the ‘sweats’). Henry goes on to be the famous/infamous Henry VIII so Katherine becomes Queen of England. Has Game of Thrones done the suspect incest thing yet?

Mary, the pretty one, gets married off to the aging King of France who is old enough to be her grandfather. He also has some rather unpleasant sexual practices (G o T again?) but fortunately for Mary, dies within a year. Now the Dowager Queen of France she hops it backs to England, rich, and marries a handsome boy her own age before they can marry her off to some other, past his sell by date, monarch with dodgy habits. The Holy Roman Emperor was in the frame for a while there. 

So the three Queens and three sisters (well technically two sisters and a sister in law) write to one another as the wars and historical doings of early Tudor history happen around and to them. It’s a good read. Have I whetted your appetite to read this?

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