[Review] Bessie Blount: Mistress to Henry VIII by Elizabeth Norton

Title: Bessie Blount: Mistress to Henry VIII
Author: Elizabeth Norton
Publisher: Amberley Publishing October 2, 2013
Genre: Non-fiction
Theme: Biography of Bessie Blount who was the mistress of Henry VIII.
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368, 77 color photographs
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Free copy from Amberley Publishing for purpose of review.

Elizabeth Norton's site: http://www.elizabethnorton.co.uk/
Elizabeth, or as history knows her, Bessie Blount, was born to a "gentry" and "pious" family. There is minimal historical information known about her, to put together an in-depth biography is impossible. There are no paintings of her. The information gleaned is through a historian and biographer named William Childe, family lineage, brief information shared from other historical figures, and Bessie's notations made in a book. Despite having a small amount of information to work with, Elizabeth Norton's aim in writing this book is to "bring out the real woman" of history.
Bessie Blount was born in Kinlet, Shropshire, England. Most evidence shows Bessie was born in 1498. Her parents were "Sir John Blount and Katherine Pershall". A total of "five sons and six daughters" were born to them. Bessie was the eldest. The family moved to Bewdley while Bessie was a young child. Bessie was well-educated, and taught important skills such as dancing and needlework, that would make her a respectable woman and wife. In late 1512 she became a maid for Catherine of Aragon. She would later become mistress to Henry VIII.
Bessie Blount is famous as mistress to Henry VIII, because she bore him the son he desperately desired. Norton's biography of Bessie will show her life after the affair with Henry VIII, her tenacity and perseverance in life, dedication and love for her children, her marriages, end of life, and legacy.

Reading a non-fiction book is not the same as reading a historical fiction or fiction book. In the later the book is presented in story; whereas in a non-fiction book the facts are arranged and presented in a educational and hopefully stimulating format. 
I wanted to explain the above because I feel readers miss this, sometimes the obvious is missed.

Bessie Blount: Mistress to Henry VIII is the first book I've read by Elizabeth Norton, it will not be my last. I have long anticipated reading one of her books and it is a pleasure to review it.

My reasons for giving this book 4 stars:
  • Elizabeth Norton knows British history, specifically medieval history. Suffice it to say, I'm impressed. The book begins with the genealogy of Bessie's family. Norton must have read and studied paperwork up to above her eyebrows. Not only do I admire her but I trust the information she's presented. She noted what information she found and where it came from. She was forthright in stating what was not known about Bessie.
  • I must admit I had prejudged Bessie. Shame on me. She was a woman of her era, not another era. Even if she had wanted to say no to having an affair with the king she would have had to anyway. A female was to be obedient to father and husband. To have another opinion was intolerable and hushed. I now feel I know her a bit more, both as a woman, historical figure, and person who intimately knew Henry VIII. 
  • Bessie could had been an advantageous and cunning and deceptive woman. She was not. She could have utilized her status as mother to the son of the King. She did not. I admire Bessie for not becoming like so many women who are given a gift; she treasured the gift and did not use it for blackmail.
There are two things that led me to give this book 4 stars and not 5.
  1. Print is too small. 
  2. The book begins with a heavy weight of information on Bessie's lineage, I muddled through this part until I got to Bessie's life. Other readers may not have the patience.