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Leonardo da Vinci: The Amboise Connection

This book was written to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death in 1519 at Clos Lucé, Amboise, France. This is where he and his painting of the Mona Lisa spent his last three years. Leonardo’s life began with his illegitimacy in Florence, fame and success in Milan, public humiliation in Rome and ended as the close friend of the most powerful king in Europe. When François I met Leonardo in Italy in 1515, he invited him to live near him in Amboise. Here, Leonardo found a security incomparable with his previously precarious existence. He entered old age basking in the gentle climate of the Loire Valley with no more financial insecurity, no more wars on his doorstep, no more jealous rivals. No longer forced to take commissions, Leonardo spent his days editing notebooks filled with his scientific studies and treatises on painting and anatomy. He had with him his paintings of The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, St. John the Baptist and the Mona Lisa. Leonardo was a tourist attraction. He still is. Fans can see where he lived, where he died and where he is buried. In Close Lucé, they can even see working models of some of his visions. The book contains many interesting, little known facts. For example. Did you know that Leonardo designed and made elaborate wigs for his models as seen in his (lost) painting of Leda and the Swan? That he dissected thirty corpses? Or that to dissect an eye ball he first immersed it in egg white then boiled it? When François I decided to move his capital from Paris to Romorantin, his childhood home, he asked Leonardo to design a new town to include two new châteaux, one for himself and one for his mother. The plans for his mother’s château is now part of the Royal Collection in Windsor Castle in England.

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Max Ernst and The Genie of Amboise

This book was written to mark the 50th anniversary of The Max Ernst Fountain. Ernst dedicated this masterpiece to Leonardo da Vinci, the genius of Amboise. The story, told backwards, begins with The Fountain. From there we follow Ernst to the tiny village of Huismes where he designed it; to Paris where he lived before moving to Huismes; to Arizona where he built a love nest in the desert with his fourth and last wife; to New York where he married his third wife, Peggy Guggenheim; to the Ardèche in the south of France where, with his lover the Surrealist artist, Leonora Carrington, he was in hiding from his second wife;  to pre-war Paris where, as an illegal immigrant, he lived in a ménage à trois with Gala Éluard before she married Salvador Dali and finally, to Germany where Max Ernst was born. The author, a graduate in Art History, lives in Amboise with her husband, the photographer Mark Playle. Intrigued with The Fountain they set themselves the task of unravelling the mystery of how it got there. In the process, they found out what made Max Ernst tick. Art made him tick, Surrealist art in particular, close friends such as Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp made him tick, but what made Max Ernst tick above all else was love. This was a man who followed his heart. 

Islington: The First 2000 Years

In response to requests from the readers of the Islington Gazette these are the articles (expanded and updated) commissioned by the paper to celebrate the Millennium. They tell the eccentric, unconventional, fascinating history of the borough from the days when elephants roamed around what is now Kings Cross, when drovers crowded into The Old Red Lion and the Angel Inn, to the Islington of today. This book brings together the highlights of Islington's past and explains what it is that made and still makes Islington so special.

Harkness Roses: Stories behind the names

Flower lovers will enjoy this book. Pamela Shields has brought together stories, rich in anecdote, about the beautiful roses introduced by generations of the Harkness family and the fascinating stories behind the names. Peter Harkness. Hearing a friend tell Peter she had just bought ‘Remembrance’ and listening to Peter telling her the story behind its name inspired this tribute to the Harkness family. There are Harkness roses in over sixty countries including Iceland, Africa, Thailand, Egypt and Iran. They are even in the gardens of Taj Mahal. In 1981 Harkness was invited to supply rosebuds for Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding bouquet and roses to decorate St. Paul’s Cathedral on that memorable day. Many roses are named after Princess Diana but the only one she chose herself was the Harkness rose ‘Princess of Wales’ which was presented to her by Philip and Robert Harkness in April 1997.

Rosie & Me

This is the true story of two little girls, one good, one naughty, who met during the Second World War. Hardly noticing bombs falling from the sky or houses collapsing around them, the only thing that interested them was having fun. Considering their many dangerous adventures, it’s a wonder they survived.

Stuff The Pension: I'm outta here

Do you dream of escaping the rat race? As one of the millions of frustrated commuters paying a fortune for the privilege of being late for work, struggling to get home when tube workers went on strike, Pamela Shields asked herself why she was putting herself through the nightmare. She’d kissed a raise and promotion goodbye long ago, all that was left was her pension. Deciding she could not get on one more tube one more day she gave in her notice, sold her two up two down and hit the road. Stuff the Pension is about how she managed to extricate herself from the 9-5 and the daily commute.

Hertfordshire Secrets & Spies

Skulduggery in the Home Counties! This book is a fascinating look at the history of spying and spies in and around Hertfordshire. Rudyard Kipling called it The Great Game. Today, although it involves billions of pounds and sophisticated technology, the motives behind spying never change, they are much the same as when man first waged war. From the beginning of recorded history, codes and ciphers have been used to carry secret messages; from plots against Elizabeth I to the Enigma machine. Pamela Shields takes the reader through a thoroughly absorbing collection of stories from Chaucer and the Knights Templar to John le Carre and on to the 1980s when Anthony Blunt was revealed as a long-time Soviet agent. It's astonishing that so many spies had Hertfordshire connections. They probably still have - you just never know who you're rubbing shoulders with! Meticulously researched and accessibly presented this book will be of interest to not only the serious reader but also to anyone who is simply curious enough to dip in and out.

Hertfordshire A-Z

Pamela Shields's new book, a compendium of fascinating Hertfordshire facts, is an introduction to the county aimed at residents, visitors and tourists. Home to many 'firsts', such as the English Pope, the Garden City and the New Town, Hertfordshire was also home to many famous people, from King Offa to Laurence Olivier, George Orwell, Graham Greene and Henry Moore - all of whom are featured here. This is where England's crown was surrendered to WIlliam the Conqueror and where a Frenchwoman and a Welshman started the Tudor dynasty. Among the county's geniuses are Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, Sir Jon Sulston and Sir Stephen Hawking. Peculiar survivals such as the Herfordshire Spike and Herfordshire Puddingstone are included, as are urban myths, local legends and much more.

Royal Hertfordshire Murders & Misdemeanours

Thist book is about Hertfordshire's many connections with royalty. Within these pages you find murder, mayhem, intrigue, scandal, love, hate, war and sometimes, even peace. She comes to her subject not as an academic historian but as a journalist with a passion for history and a populist eye for anecdotes and local myths and legends which surround some of the most famous of names. Quirky, insightful, entertaining, sometimes irreverent it is also, of course, full of fascinating facts such as: in 1361 the Prince of Wales spent his honeymoon in Berkhamsted and that his new Duchess of Cornwall was an older woman with a past; how Henry VIII's children (all future monarchs) were brought up; where James I was when he received news of the Gunpowder Plot and where George VI, father of the present Queen, fell madly in love with Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon. We read about Edward II and his lover Piers Gaveston; how Henry Bolingbroke had his cousin Richard II murdered and why he buried him in Kings Langley. We discover that The Three Lions on English football shirts are far from English and the famous Tudor dynasty was started by a Welsh servant. Pamela takes a modern approach to the shenanigans of kings and queens throughout history. Some were brave, some greedy, some cruel, others gentle, all are fascinating.

The Private Lives of Hertfordshire Writers

Explores the connections many writers including Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Ken Follett, Frederick Forsyth, Victoria Glendenning and others who have or have had with Hertfordshire. This book presents an introduction for readers who know little about the authors.

Essential Islington: From Boadicea to Blair

Essential Islington explains the character and charm of Islington in an A-Z of the borough from prehistoric times to the present. She delves into local legends and urban myths, and recalls the events and characters that have shaped the area.

The Little Book of Hitchin

The Little Book of Hitchin, a quirky little book about a quirky little town, goes some way to explain its character and charm. With nothing available quite like it on the shelves it sold 400 copies within three weeks of its launch. 40 pages of text are accompanied by 40 superb black and white photographs.