Review – Graven With Diamonds

Cover of Graven with Diamonds by Nicola ShulmanGraven with Diamonds, Nicola Shulman

I wasn’t really aware of Thomas Wyatt before I read this, and all I really know about him now is that he was a courtier and a poet, sometimes a diplomat. Overall, though, this book is less a biography of Thomas Wyatt and more an examination of the role poetry (including, and chiefly, his) had in the court of Henry VIII. I felt like I learned more about Anne Boleyn (whom the author frankly admires for her skill in dealing with her paramours and navigating the court) and Henry VIII than I did about Wyatt. Which is, to an extent, what the author promises in the introduction.

But, and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, I found it hard to take the analysis entirely seriously given that the knowledge it was based on is faulty in basic ways. The author of The Romance of the Rose was not Chrétien de Troyes, but Jean du Meun and Guillaume de Lorris. In fact, The Romance of the Rose was completed ca. 1270; Chrétien de Troyes’ work was done before 1200. If you’re going to muck up a basic fact like that — you don’t have to know it by heart, but you do need to actually look it up — I’m not sure I trust you to steer between fact and fiction when it comes to the Tudors, who excelled at their own myth making.

So it was kind of interesting to read this author’s speculations, but I gave her pretty much no credence, as she didn’t earn it. Courtly literature isn’t just a throwaway thing here, but something which is important to how she discusses the Tudor court. Do your research.

Rating: 2/5

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