Everyone knows that the Middle Ages ended on August 22nd 1485, the day of the Battle of Bosworth Field :-). Come on, everyone knows that, right? Well, in a lot of Continental countries they don’t actually realise this ;-), because they think that the Middle Ages ended in 1494, when France invaded the Italian peninsula and kicked off the Italian Wars, which dragged on until 1559. The point of this is that English books during this period tend to focus on domestic issues, and in particular the Tudors’ issues with producing heirs. Particularly, of course, the story of Henry VIII’s decision to end his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and to marry Anne Boleyn: it’s the best known period in English history and one about which there are a million and one books and have been an awful lot of TV series.
So this book made quite a refreshing change. The idea of the book, and its title, was to show a young English merchant trying to make his fortune by travelling to Venice and other parts of Italy to find some wonderful jewels which he could then sell on to Henry to be given to Anne as presents. In the process of so doing, however, he got caught up in the Italian Wars, and in particular in the sack of Rome by Imperial troops and their allies in 1527. It’s not the best-written book ever, but the author deserves a lot of credit for taking a different approach to the period, showing what was going on on the Continent, and not just regurgitating the tale of Henry, Catherine and Anne which, fascinating though it is, we’ve all heard ad nauseam. Not bad at all, and certainly worth a read.