Tudor Times described by Rosemary Sutcliff in The Armourer’s House (1951)

Cover of Red Fox edition of Rosemary Sutcliff's Tudor children's historical fiction The Armourer's HouseA history GCSE-teaching site ( johndclare.net)  quotes this extract from Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Armourer’s House (unfortunately mis-stating the book’s title as  ‘The Armourer’s Apprentice’ at one point!). He invites learners to compare the ‘picture’  she paints of Tudor times with that suggested by a woodcut that “showed the things that made the Tudor street an unhealthy place in which to live”.

He says of The Armourer’s House that it is  “a children’s book written in the 1980s about Tamsyn, a lttle girl visiting Tudor London.” Actually, Tamsyn was not just ‘visiting’: Following the death of her grandmother, Tamsyn is sent to grow up with her uncle, a famous armourer, and his family in London, in the time of King Henry the Eight (VIIIth), in the period when he was married to one of his many wives – Anne Boleyn. Tamsyn’s dream of setting sail with her seafaring uncle was dashed.  For she would have much preferred to stay in Devon, watching the uncle’s ships. She was homesick until she discovered that a cousin, Piers, shared her feeling for the sea, and they became close friends.

Mr Clare could not be much more wrong about the date (he cites as 1980s), either. The Armourer’s House was one of the first books written by Rosemary Sutcliff, published first in 1951! Anyway, as Rosemary puts it:

In those days cities were not at all like they are now.  They were small and compact and cosy.  The houses were cuddled close together inside their city walls, with the towers of their cathedrals standing over them to keep them safe from harm.  London was like that.  As you came towards it, up the Strand from Westminster or over the meadows from Hampstead, you could see the towers and spires and steep roofs of the City rising above its protecting walls as gay as flowers in a flower-pot; and when you had passed through the gates (there were eight fine gates to London Town), the streets were narrow and crooked and very dirty, but bright with swinging shop-signs and hurrying crowds.  And the shops under the brilliant signs were as gay as fairground booths, with broidered gloves and silver hand-mirrors, jewels to hang in ladies’ ears, baskets of plaited rushes, coifs of bone lace, wooden cradles hung with little golden bells for wealthy babies.  Other shops sold the rare and lovely things from overseas that were still new to the English people – Venetian goblets as fine as soap bubbles, pale eastern silks, strange spices for rich men’s tables, and musk in little flasks for people to make themselves smell nice.  But if you wanted ordinary things, such as food or preserving pans, you went to Cheapside or some other market; and if you wanted herbs you went to the herb market, which was really one of the loveliest places in London, because most flowers and green things counted as herbs in those days.

The street of the Dolphin House was one of the nicest streets in London.  It was a very busy street, full of a great coming and going that went on all the daylight hours, so that there was always something to watch from the windows … Brown-clad monks, and church carvers and candle-makers, merchants and yet more merchants, and jewellers and silversmiths, and sailors everywhere – more sailors every day, it seemed to Tamsyn.  All these came and went along the street, and sometimes a great lord would ride by on a tall horse, or a lady with winged sleeves of golden gauze and servants running ahead to clear the way lather.  Strolling players often passed that way, too, on their way from Ludgate to the Fountain Tavern, where they acted their plays; and Morris Dancers, or a performing bear led by a little boy, or a man with a cadge of hawks for sale …

Oh, it was a very exciting street, and as the weeks went by, Tamsyn began to like it very much indeed.

The Woodcut:

Tudor life woodcut of street scene

Source:  Key Stage 3 at www.johndclare.net

Interesting views & titles already from collecting on Twitter and Website views about eminent writer of children’s literature and historical fiction Rosemary Sutcliff‘s best books of fiction & re-telling

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Best Books

So far almost twenty of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books of children and young adults fiction and historical fiction have been cited either here or on Twitter (#BestRosemarySutcliffBook) after my call for choices and rationales. Some people snuck in more than one choice.

Of those, some raised possible distinctions between reading and re-reading, reading as a child and as an adult, reading novels written for adults and those written for children, and those books of fiction versus her re-telling of saga and legend

A Little Dog Like You (first published 1987)
Blood Feud (1976)
Brother Dusty Feet (1952)
Dawn Wind (1961)
Frontier Wolf (1980)
Simon (1953)
Song for a Dark Queen (1978)
Sword at Sunset (1963)
The Armourer’s House (1951)
The Eagle of the Ninth (1954)
The Flowers of Adonis (1969)
The High Deeds of Finn MacCool (1967)
The Hound of Ulster (1963)
The Lantern Bearers (1959)
The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965)
The Shining Company (1990)
The Silver Branch (1957)
The Witch’s Brat (1970)
Warrior Scarlet (1957)

A listing of all the books of Children’s Literature and Historical Fiction by British writer Rosemary Sutcliff

A Rosemary Sutcliff Bibliography

The widely read and acclaimed The Eagle of the Ninth, published in 1954, still in print, is just one of some sixty books by Rosemary Sutcliff. This list has every book by Rosemary Sutcliff — author, historical novelist and children’s writer. For a short biography of Rosemary Sutcliff see Life tab.

Eagle of the Ninth and similar

The Eagle of the Ninth (1954) illustrated by C. Walter Hodges
The Silver Branch (1957) illustrated by Charles Keeping
The Lantern Bearers (1959) illustrated by Charles Keeping
The Capricorn Bracelet (1973) illustrated by Charles Keeping
Both Three Legions (1980) and The Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles (2010) are omnibus editions containing the first three books
The Eagle of the Ninth Collection Boxed Set (2012) is also an omnibus edition of the first three books.

Camelot or King Arthur novels

Sword at Sunset (1963)
The Sword and the Circle (1979)
The Light Beyond the Forest (1979)
The Road to Camlann (1981)
The King Arthur Trilogy (1999) is an omnibus of The Sword and the Circle, The Light Beyond the Forest, and The Road to Camlann

Other children’s and young adult novels

Chronicles of Robin Hood (1950)
The Queen Elizabeth Story (1950) illustrated by C. Walter Hodges
The Armourer’s House (1951)
Brother Dustyfeet (1952)
Simon (1953) illustrated by C. Walter Hodges
Outcast (1955) illustrated by Richard Kennedy
The Shield Ring (1956)
Warrior Scarlet (1957) illustrated by Charles Keeping
Lady in Waiting (1957)
Knight’s Fee (1960) illustrated by Charles Keeping
The Bridge Builders (1959)
Dawn Wind (1961) illustrated by Charles Keeping
Beowulf (1961) illustrated by Charles Keeping (also published as Dragon Slayer)
The Hound of Ulster (1963) illustrated by Victor Ambrus
The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965) illustrated by Charles Keeping
The Flowers of Adonis (1965)
A Saxon Settler (1965)
The Chief’s Daughter (1967)
The High Deeds of Finn MacCool (1967)
A Circlet of Oak Leaves (1968)
The Witch’s Brat (1970)
Tristan and Iseult (1971)
The Truce of the Games (1971)
Heather, Oak, and Olive (1972) is omnibus of three titles The Chief”s Daughter, A Circlet of Oak Leaves, and A Crown of Wild Olive (originally published as The Truce of the Games)
The Capricorn Bracelet (1973)
The Changeling (1974) illustrated by Victor Ambrus
We Lived in Drumfyvie (1975) with Margaret Lyford-Pike
Blood Feud (1976) illustrated by Charles Keeping
Sun Horse, Moon Horse (1977)
Shifting Sands (1977)
Song for a Dark Queen (1978)
Frontier Wolf (1980)
Eagle’s Egg (1981)
Bonnie Dundee (1983)
Flame-Coloured Taffeta (1986) illustrated by Rachel Birkett
The Roundabout Horse (1986)
A Little Dog Like You (1987) illustrated by Jane Johnson
The Best of Rosemary Sutcliff (1987) is an omnibus edition of Warrior Scarlet, The Mark of the Horse Lord and Knight’s Fee
Little Hound Found (1989)
The Shining Company (1990)
The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup (1993) illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark.
Black Ships Before Troy (1993) illustrated by Alan Lee
Chess-dream in the Garden (1993) illustrated by Ralph Thompson
The Wanderings of Odysseus (1995) illustrated by Alan Lee
Sword Song (1997)

Novels for adults

Lady in Waiting (1957)
The Rider of the White Horse (1959)
Sword at Sunset (1963)
The Flowers of Adonis (1969)
Blood and Sand (1987)


Rudyard Kipling — A Monograph (1960)
Houses and History (1960)
Heroes and History (1965) illustrated by Charles Keeping
Arthur Ransome, Rudyard Kipling and Walter De La Mare (1968) (with Leonard Clark and Hugh Shelley) reproduces the Rudyard Kipling mongraph—above
Is Anyone There? (1978) (with Monica Dickens)
Blue Remembered Hills (1983) — A memoir, her autobiography, or ‘recollection’ as she called it

One of first display advertisements in a British newspaper for children’s novel by Rosemary Sutcliff | 1951 in The Guardian

Advertisement for Rosemary Sutclif’s The Armourer’s House

Source: The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959); Oct 4, 1951

62 main characters in Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novels, retellings of legend, and children’s books

  1. Adam is Perdita’s friend in The Queen Elizabeth Story (1950).
  2. Alcibiades, is a warrior in the Peloponnesian War, including in the dreadful battle of Syracuse, who has a complicated relationship with Athens  in The Flowers of Adonis (1969).
  3. Alexios is a Roman army officer who becomes commander of the motley, savage group known as the Frontier Wolves in Frontier Wolf (1980).
  4. Amias Hannaford is the boyhood friend of Simon who fights for the Royalists (the Cavaliers) in Simon (1953).
  5. Anne is the wife of Sir Thomas Fairfax and  mother of Moll who has to trail her husband as he leads his army around the country in The Rider of the White Horse (1959)
  6. Aquila is the young commander of a troop of cavalry who realises that his strongest loyalty is to his native Britain rather than to the legions and a distant empire he has never seen, in The Eagle of the Ninth (1954).
  7. Aracos is a horse-breeder in A Circlet of Oak Leaves (1968).
  8. Artos is the bastard son of Uther, who is raised by his uncle as a cavalryman to lead the Roman-British fight against the invading Saxons, in Sword at Sunset (1963).
  9. Beowulf is the eponymous hero of Beowulf (1961).
  10. Beric is the infant son of a Roman soldier  is shipwrecked; then grows up with a Briton tribe, but is rejected both by them and Rome in Outcast (1955)
  11. Bess Throckmorton is the lady waiting’—Sir Walter Raleigh’s wife— who had to stay home as he travelled the world’s oceans, in Lady in Waiting (1957).
  12. Bevis is the young boy who becomes the knight in Knight’s Fee (1960).
  13. Bjarni Sigurdson is a young sixteen year-old Viking swordsman who is banished from the settlement for five years and  becomes a successful mercenary in Sword Song (1997).
  14. Bjorn, the Bear-Cub, is the foster-son of the old harper, and becomes a harper himself in The Shield Ring (1956).
  15. Blue Feather is a twelve year old girl who is promised to the cruel chief of her people, Long Axe, in Shifting Sands (1977).
  16. Boudicca is the defiant queen of the Iceni who leads her small British tribe in rebellion against the Roman invaders in Song for a Dark Queen (1978).
  17. Carausius is the Emperor served by Justin and Flavius in The Silver Branch (1957).
  18. Cordella is the girl Quintus wishes to marry in Eagle’s Egg (1981) .
  19. Cuchulain is the boy in Ireland who claims the weapons of his manhood and becomes the great warrior and hero, The Hound of Ulster (1963).
  20. Damaris Crocker is  a twelve-year-old girl involved with smugglers in Flame-Coloured Taffeta (1986).
  21. Drem is a boy born with a withered right arm who grows up in a bronze-age settlement on the South Downs in Britain, eventually to become one of the hunters of his tribe, in Warrior Scarlet (1957).
  22. Felix is a legionary in A Circlet of Oak Leaves (1968).
  23. Finn is the hero of The High Deeds of Finn MacCool (1967).
  24. Flavia is Aquila’s sister, kidnapped by Saxon raiders, who marries a Saxon and has a Saxon-child  in The Lantern Bearers (1959).
  25. Flavius is a centurion, friend and colleague of Justin in The Silver Branch (1957).
  26. Frytha is a young orphaned Saxon girl who seeks refuge in the Secret Valley in the Lake District after her home is burnt by the Normans, and joins Jarl Buthar’s Viking band in The Shield Ring (1956).
  27. Godmund is the White King in Chess Dream in a Garden (1993).
  28. Guenhemara is the woman Artos loves in Sword at Sunset (1963).
  29. Hrosmunda is the White Queen in Chess Dream in a Garden (1993).
  30. Hugh Copplestone joins a group of strolling players before going on to university, in Brother Dusty-Feet (1952).
  31. Hugh Herriot is stable-lad then galloper to Claverhouse in 17th Century Scotland, in Bonnie Dundee (1983).
  32. Iseult is the wife of King Marc of Cornwall in Tristan and Iseult (1971).
  33. Jestyn is a young 10th-century English man who is sold into slavery to the Northmen in Blood Feud (1976).
  34. Justin is a young army surgeon who is loyal to the Emperor Carausius in The Silver Branch (1957).
  35. King Odysseus of Ithaca is a traveller who visits the Cyclops, the Island of the Dead and Circe in The Wanderings of Odysseus (1995).
  36. Liadhan is the half-sister of Levin who uses Red Phaedrus to bring back goddess-worship and set herself on the throne in The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965).
  37. Lovel is a boy with physical disabilities, but a deep knowledge of herbs and also a gift for healing, who eventually helps build St Bartholomew’s hospital and priory in The Witch’s Brat (1970).
  38. Lubrhin Dhu is the young man with an unusual talent for drawing in Sun Horse, Moon Horse (1977).
  39. Lucky is the dragon-pup in The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup (1993).
  40. Marcus Flavius Aquila follows in the steps of his disgraced father to join the Roman army, but in his first battle in England he is seriously injured and forced to leave—he sets out to the North to recover the lost Eagle of the Ninth legion (his father’s legion) in The Eagle of the Ninth (1954).
  41. Mordred is a knight who plots against his father, King Arthur, to bring down Arthur’s court and The Round Table in The Road to Camlann (1981).
  42. Nessan is the daughter of a clan chief, who has to deal with her fear of being offered as a sacrifice to the Black Mother in The Chief’s Daughter (1967)
  43. Oisin is Finn’s son in The High Deeds of Finn MacCool (1967).
  44. Owain, the last Roman-British wearer of the dolphin ring, is the only survivor of a Viking raid and the great battle of Aquae Sulis in Dawn Wind.(1961).
  45. Paris in Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad (1993).
  46. Perdita from the English county of Devonshire, lives with her  her father the rector in the quiet Broomhill village where she nearly always finds fairies or Pharisees and sees Queen Elizabeth, in The Queen Elizabeth Story (1950).
  47. Piers is a cousin of Tamsyn who shares her feeling for the sea and becomes a close friend in The Armourer’s House (1951).
  48. Prosper becomes second shield-bearer to Prince Gorthyn in the Companions, a 300 strong anti-Saxon-invasion fighting 7th Century brotherhood in The Shining Company (1990).
  49. Randall is a young, ill-treated dog-boy who is wagered and won in a game of chess between a lord and a minstrel in Knight’s Fee (1960).
  50. Red Phaedrus is an enslaved gladiator in northern Britain in the first century; he earns his freedom, and accepts an offer to impersonate the missing Midir, son of a king of a Gaelic Kingdom, which gets him more than he bargained for in The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965).
  51. Robin Hood is the legendary outlaw in Sherwood Forest, fighting tyranny with a small band of followers, in The Chronicles of Robin Hood (1950).
  52. Simon Carey is a farmer’s son who enlists with the Parliamentary forces (the Roundheads) in Simon (1953).
  53. Sir Bors, Sir Galahad, Sir Lancelot, and Sir Percival are four knights who search for the Holy Grail in The Light Beyond the Forest (1979).
  54. Sir Thomas Fairfax is husband of Anne and father of Moll, the impressive soldier in the English Civil War novel, The Rider of the White Horse (1959).
  55. Tamsyn is a girl from Devon who has to grow up with her uncle—a famous armourer—and his family in London, dashing her hopes of setting sail with her seafaring uncle, in The Armourer’s House (1951).
  56. Tethra is the seventh-born child of the Chieftain of the Epidii in The Changeling (1974).
  57. The Minstrel is a down-at-heel minstrel who finds a beautiful egg on the seashore, uses his harp-music to help the dragon-pup hatch—a pup which he then loses to a thief but retrieves, and together they cure the king’s son, in The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup (1993).
  58. Thomas Keith is an apprentice gunsmith from Edinburgh who becomes a young soldier in the Napoleonic wars in Blood and Sand (1987).
  59. Tristan is the warrior lover of Iseult in Tristan and Iseult (1971).