Review: The Crown by Joanna Stafford

During Henry VIII’s reign there was the dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry dissolved and shut the monasteries of England because of the corruption that was inherent at the time. Monks and Nuns lived in luxury. Monks often had mistresses and children. One of the side benefits of the closing of the monasteries was that the English Crowns treasury was filled with the wealth the monasteries had amassed. The dissolution of the monasteries took place in three stages – the smaller monasteries were closed first, then the medium sized monasteries and then the larger monasteries.
This novel is set during this period and begins in 1537. A novice Dominican nun from Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford defies the rule of enclosure and leaves the Priory to go to London. Her cousin is to be burnt at the stake. However while in London events lead to her being arrested and being confined to the tower. She is then interrogated by the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner (Bishop Gardiner became the Archbishop of Canterbury in Queen Mary’s reign and he was the man who condemned Thomas Cranmer to death). Bishop Gardiner has Joanna’s father and threatens his life unless Joanna goes back to Dartford Priory and unearth an ancient (and supposedly powerful) relic – the Crown of Æthelstan – which the Bishop believes will stop Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries.
Æthelstan was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 924 to 927 and King of the English from 927 to 939.[c] He was the son of King Edward the Elder and his first wife, Ecgwynn. Modern historians regard him as the first King of England and one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings. Æthelstan was one of the most pious West Saxon kings, and was known for collecting relics and founding churches. His household was the centre of English learning during his reign, and it laid the foundation for the Benedictine monastic reform later in the century. No other West Saxon king played as important a role in European politics as Æthelstan, and he arranged the marriages of several of his sisters to continental rulers.
The Novel follows Joanna’s attempts to find this relic.
It is written by a Catholic author and so you will find that her sympathies lie against Henry VIII. She is critical of Anne Boleyn who makes a b rief appearance in the novel.
But despite the catholic bias regarding the history of the time, it is a wonderful suspense / murder mystery. The writing will grab you and draw you into a fascinating period of time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be reading the other two in the series over the summer.

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