The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau

‘The Tapestry’ is the 3rd book in Nancy Bilyeau’s Joanna Stafford trilogy and once again her writing has succeeded in immersing me in the sights, sounds and smells (yuk) of Tudor England.

Joanna Stafford was a novice nun until her priory, along with most of the religious houses in England, was shut down. Now she is living in Dartford and working as a tapestry maker. Anne of Cleeves bought Joanna’s previous tapestry, so her skill has come to the attention of King Henry VIII. Joanna is summoned to court to discuss her next tapestry. She would prefer to stay away since she loathes the King and his closest assistant Thomas Cromwell, but an order from the King can’t be ignored.

On arrival at court, an attempt is made on Joanna’s life. She escapes only to discover that her 17 year old cousin and close friend Catherine Howard has caught the eye of the King (who is still married).

Joanna tries everything in her power to keep Catherine safe from Henry. Meanwhile, the tapestry job keeps expanding and Joanna is being drawn further into the court, and further attempts are made on her life. With all the plotting and power plays, as well as attempts to use magic that are going on in the court, no one is safe from the King or from each other.

Joanna eventually travels to Brussels, the centre of tapestry making, to procure tapestries for the King. But her real goal is to help Geoffrey Scovill find her former flame Edmund who has been missing for several months in Europe. But, Europe is in the grip of famine and foreigners are not welcome. She is once again in danger.

All she wanted was to stay in Dartford weaving tapestries, but now she doesn’t know if she will ever make it back home.


The way in which history was brought to life in this book was brilliant, but I found Joanna’s life much less convincing and I liked her less than in the previous two novels.

There were many endings in this book, but also many things left up in the air. Some parts of the story were started in great detail then seemed to be rushed to a conclusion.

Still, I have loved this trilogy and would recommend that anyone interested in historical fiction read – ‘The Crown’, ‘The Chalice’ and ‘The Tapestry’. I eagerly await Nancy Bilyeau’s next project (I will have to forget what happened to Thomas Cromwell before ‘The Mirror and the Light’ by Hilary Mantel is published).


Book Published 2015


See a full list of books by Nancy Bilyeau

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