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EXPERTISE
History - General
Royalty & Monarchy
BIOGRAPHY
Alan Barr has an abiding interest, some say passion, for 16th and 17th Century English history, with an emphasis on the Tudor period.

Although a non-Academic in this field, Alan’s accumulated knowledge is immense. To add to his continuing research and reading, he visits the UK and Europe twice yearly, attending historic sites, libraries and institutions, as well as participating and engaging in, small specialised historian led tours.

Building on communication skills drawn from his widely varied background, Alan then can clearly convey his knowledge of history to an audience.

Although recognized as an engaging and inspiring speaker on a diverse range of topics, including history and bird photography, it is in the history context that he excels. A captivating story-teller, he quickly establishes rapport with his audience, bringing historical figures to life and relating historical facts to contemporary issues. He uses rich graphics to demonstrate and provide focus.

As a resident of a large coastal resort village near Sydney, Australia, Alan has built a devoted following for his talks on Tudor history to residents and guests. These target audiences are 50+ English-speaking, well-educated people of enquiring minds. They say that they come to be entertained and informed and that Alan does not disappoint. His most recent series of six talks on Great Tudor personalities drew capacity audiences in the 70-seat theatre. To satisfy demand, the next series on Great Stories of 16th and 17th century British History commits Alan to present each topic twice. He also presents regularly to the local chapter of the University of the Third Age and to other community interest groups.

Talks are tightly controlled to 45 minutes; audience involvement is encouraged, and an important take-away message encapsulates each presentation.



(Click image to download sample Powerpoint Presentation PDF - large file, 8MB)
PRESENTATIONS
Tudor Court
1485- 1603
‘a glimpse inside the Court of England’s best-known Dynasty’

An insider view of courtly life in Tudor England. Introduced, are several of the great Tudor Courts of England with detailed reference to perhaps the greatest Court of all – Hampton Court Palace.
Covered are the great personalities who graced the Court and the landmark historical events that occurred there. Cutting through to the daily life and routine provides an understanding of the extraordinary challenge of attending to the Monarch’s family and vast entourage, whether this be in terms of providing rich entertainment and sport or lavish dining experiences. Achieving a healthy and hygienic court environment is discussed along with the mammoth logistical task of moving Court from one location to another. This presentation is a real introduction to the magnificence of Tudor Royal and Noble life.

King Henry VIII
1491 - 1547
‘Villain, tyrant or just a monarch with personal relationship issues’

This presentation explores the personality of King Henry VIII to understand his somewhat erratic behaviour in love and life, while also acknowledging the great contributions he made during his reign. The role played by his father but to a greater extent by his mother and grandmother in his early life and the journey to kingship may help answer questions about him. The events of 1536 (Henrys annus horribilis) are discussed when many say it all turned ‘pear shaped’ for this best-known English King and his vicious behaviour came to the fore. Was he a villain and tyrant? Let’s unravel it.

Queen Mary I
1553 – 1558
‘a five-year tragic reign of terror’

A devout Catholic Queen takes the throne from her Protestant half-brother, the teenage King Edward VI. Both are the children of King Henry VIII and the agendas of each could not be more different. Mary is determined to return England to Rome and to avenge her mother’s (Katharine of Aragon) poor treatment by her father over his divorce from her and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn. The execution of Mary’s enemies and the burnings at the stake of her Protestant detractors follow. Her marriage to the King of Spain is disastrous and sad. Mary goes down in history as ‘Bloody Mary’. The presentation explores what went wrong for her and questions if she deserved this legacy.

Elizabeth I
1533 - 1603
‘the Place of the Virgin Queen in English history’

This talk examines Elizabeth’s lasting place in English history as one of England’s greatest monarchs. Covered are the major achievements of her reign; the role of the influential advisors and confidants she gathered around her; and her resultant political judgement and will. To help understand the image of ‘Gloriana’, the talk turns to the magnificent image she created through dress and appearance, and then homes in on the most persistent aspects of her private life – love, marriage and the succession. What then might be concluded about ‘the Virgin Queen’?

Mary Queen of Scots
1542 – 1587
‘Queen of France and Scotland, tragically, with misplaced ideas about claiming the English throne’

Born of a Scottish father and French mother, Mary’s life was turbulent from beginning to end. Crowned Queen of Scotland at 3 months of age she goes to France aged 6 and marries the Dauphin 10 years later. Her French marriage and the death of her husband now King Francis II, sees a young teenage Mary make an ill-fated return to her Scottish throne. Scotland politics were far from stable and her ruthless half brother is a constant thorn in her side. Two disastrous marriages and her possible implication in the death of one of the husbands makes Mary’s life intolerable. The Scottish Nobles triumph over their Queen and Mary flees to England where she is incarcerated for 18 years during the reign of Elizabeth I. The relationship between them sours, all the time Mary claiming to be Elizabeth’s successor. Elizabeth will have none of this and so Mary turns to treasonous means to overthrow Elizabeth and claim the English throne. Her treason is discovered. Mary is tried convicted and executed for plotting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. This presentation traces the key moments of Mary Queen of Scots twisting and somewhat unbelievable life experience leading to its tragic end.

The Spanish Armada
July – August 1588
‘an ill-hatched Royal plan doomed from the beginning’

The scene is set by examining the political build-up in Europe and the development of a grand plan by King Phillip II of Spain to invade England, destroy Queen Elizabeth I and restore Catholicism. Phillip’s plan is ill-founded and lacks military credibility. A huge Armada leaves from Spain but English intelligence signals its arrival. The battle and the tactics of the two opposing forces are described as are the ships and armaments involved. Eventual defeat for Spain means a disastrous and long Spanish retreat to Spain with enormous battle losses. Spain is bankrupt. The big question explored is just what went wrong for Spain and then follows discussion about subsequent English/Spanish relationships.

The Mary Rose
The sinking and raising of Henry VIII’s great flagship
‘Offering a glimpse into life in Tudor times’

King Henry VIII is regarded as the father of the Royal Navy. One of his favourite flagships was the warship Mary Rose. Built in Portsmouth in 1511, she was part of an English naval fleet preparing to meet the French fleet in the Battle of the Solent in July 1545. An ageing Henry was there to witness the event. Standing on the Round Tower at Portsmouth Harbour he watched in horror as the Mary Rose sank before him – also in full view of the French. To this day the true reason for the sinking is debatable, although some of the possibilities are explored. Emphasised is the extraordinary archaeological and engineering feat of raising the Mary Rose to the surface in October 1982. Then attention turns to the 19,000 items and artefacts that were retrieved after being preserved in the silt of the Solent for over 400 years. The presentation touches on the conservation aspects of some of these items while describing the significance of them. Uncovered is the popular conclusion that the Mary Rose does provide a veritable treasure chest of the life of ordinary people in Tudor England.

Other talks are available, including:

‘From Birth to Death - a Woman’s Place in Tudor England’
‘Elizabeth I’s European Spy Network’
‘16th Century Health and Medicine’
‘King James I – An Introduction to the Stuart Dynasty’
‘Charles I. Execution of a King and England’s experiment with Republicanism’