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Vanessa Wilkie - A Woman of Influence: The Spectacular Rise of Alice Spencer in Tudor England | Wednesday 22 May, 6.30pm

Vanessa Wilkie - A Woman of Influence: The Spectacular Rise of Alice Spencer in Tudor England | Wednesday 22 May, 6.30pm

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This “engrossing, fast-paced, extremely well-researched biography” (Booklist) transports us to Tudor and Stuart England as Alice Spencer, the daughter of an upstart sheep farmer, becomes one of the most powerful women in the country and establishes a powerful dynasty that endures to this day. Perfect for fans of The Duchess Countess and Georgiana.

In partnership with Durham University's Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Alice Spencer was born in 1560 to a family on the rise. Her grandfather had amassed a sizeable estate of fertile grazing land and made a small fortune in sheep farming, allowing him to purchase a simple but distinguished manor house called Althorp.

With her sizable dowry, Alice married the heir to one of the most powerful aristocratic families in the country, eventually becoming the Countess of Derby. Though she enjoyed modest renown, it wasn’t until her husband’s sudden death that Alice and her family’s future changed forever.

Faced with a lawsuit from her brother-in-law over her late husband’s fortune, Alice raised eyebrows by marrying England’s most powerful lawyer. Together, they were victorious, and Alice focused her attentions on securing appropriate husbands for her daughters, increasing her land ownings, and securing a bright future for her grandchildren and the entire Spencer family. But they would not completely escape scandals, and as the matriarch, Alice had to face an infamous trial that threatened everything she had worked so hard for.

A woman both ahead of and part of her time, Alice’s ruthless challenging of the status quo has inspired future generations of Spencers and will change the way you view Tudor women.

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Dr Vanessa Wilkie is the Head of the Library Curatorial department at The Huntington Library, California, where she curates the Library's renowned collections of medieval manuscripts and British History. She earned her PhD in British history from the University of California at Riverside and was a visiting assistant professor of history at the University of Redlands before going to The Huntington in 2013. Wilkie has curated two exhibitions: Magna Carta: Law & Legend and The Reformation: From the Word to the World. She has published on female editorial practices, patronage, and death rituals. Her book A Woman of Influence: The Spectacular Rise of Alice Spencer in Tudor England (Atria/Simon & Schuster) was published in April 2023.

At this event, Vanessa will be talking about her book with Amanda Herbert, Associate Professor of Early Modern History at Durham University.

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Tickets: £5.00 and include a 20% discount on one copy of the book for Durham University campus card holders

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