The Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography was established in 2003 in affectionate memory of Elizabeth Longford, the acclaimed biographer, and is sponsored by Flora Fraser and Peter Soros. It is administered by the Society of Authors.

This £5,000 award is presented annually for a historical biography published in the year preceding the prize.

Winner of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography 2007

henryviii_coverJessie Childs for her biography Henry VIII’s Last Victim – The Life and Times of Henry Howard,Earl of Surrey (published by Cape).

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey was one of the most flamboyant and controversial characters of Henry VIII's reign. A pioneering poet, whose verse had a profound impact on Shakespeare and the English Renaissance, Surrey was nevertheless branded by one contemporary as 'the most foolish proud boy that is in England'. He was the heir of England's premier nobleman, first cousin to two of Henry VIII's wives - Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard - and best friend and brother-in-law to the King's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. Celebrated for his chivalrous deeds both on and off the battlefield, Surrey became, at only twenty-eight, the King's Lieutenant General in France. He had his portrait painted more often than any other Tudor courtier, but his confident exterior masked insecurity and loneliness. A man of intriguing contradictions, Surrey was both law enforcer and law breaker, political conservative and religious reformer. The self-styled guardian of the traditional nobility, he was recklessly outspoken against the 'new erected men' of the court.

Cromwell was a 'foul churl', Paget a 'mean creature' and the problems that beset Henry VIII's realm were, Surrey hinted, 'the bitter fruit of false concupiscence'. He witnessed and was inextricably caught up in all the major events of the reign: the Break with Rome, the Pilgrimage of Grace, the Reformation, the executions of his two cousins, Henry's French wars and the brutal power struggle at the end of the reign to which he fell victim. His life, replete with drunken escapades, battlefield heroics, conspiracy and courtroom drama, sheds new light on the opulence and artifice of a dazzling, but deadly, age.

Past Winners

2006 Charles Williams Pétain (Little, Brown) £3,000

Charles Williams' major biography of Philippe Petain (1856-1951) tells of a peasant who became a Marshal of France and the Head of the Vichy State. A slow climb up the army ranks was leading inexorably to retirement when war broke out. He defended Verdun in 1916 and settled the mutinies in 1917. In May 1940, he realised that France had been defeated and requested an armistice. As head of unoccupied France, he jockeyed between Nazis, Allies and Vichy politicians until, in 1945, he returned to France to be tried for treason. His death sentence was commuted by General de Gaulle to life imprisonment. In recounting Petain's long life, Lord Williams, one of our most notable political biographers, has successfully illustrated the character of an extraordinary man.

2005 Ian Kershaw Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and Britain's Road to War (Penguin Allen Lane) £3,000

Britain, as the most powerful of the European victors of World War One, had a unique responsibility to maintain the peace in the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles. The outbreak of a second, even more catastrophic war in 1939 has therefore always raised painful questions about Britain's failure to deal with Nazism. Could some other course of action have destroyed Hitler when he was still weak? In this highly disturbing new book, Ian Kershaw examines this crucial issue. He concentrates on the figure of Lord Londonderry grandee, patriot, cousin of Churchill and the government minister responsible for the RAF at a crucial point in its existence. Londonderry's reaction to the rise of Hitler - to pursue friendship with the Nazis at all costs - raises fundamental questions about Britain's role in the 1930s and whether in practice there was ever any possibility of preventing Hitler's leading Europe once again into war.

2004 Katie Whitaker Mad Madge: Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Royalist, Writer and Romantic (Chatto & Windus) £3,000

Product Description
Mad Madge designed her own clothes and her coach was black with silver decoration. As John Evelyn wrote, gentlemen visitors were 'much pleased by the extraordinary fanciful habit, garb and discourse of the Duchess'. Born into an East Anglian royalist family in 1623, young Margaret Lucas went into Court service, accompanying the Queen, Henrietta Maria, to Oxford during the Civil War and sharing her hair-raising escape to France in 1644. In Paris, she met and married William Cavendish, Marquis of Newcastle, a great horseman. They lived together in exile for 10 years, as part of the -migr- royalist circle that included aristocrats and the intellectual giants of the day, such as Descartes and Hobbes. Margaret had always loved poetry and philosophy - and now she became a writer. Plays, short fiction, fantasies, 'science fiction' and verse, orations, letters, essays, an autobiography and a biography, six philosophical treatises and one utopia - She made her mark as one of the most determined and prolific of female writers in an age when less than one per cent of published work was by women and society was shocked that she dared to publish under her own name.

2003 David Gilmour The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling (John Murray) £3,000

From the Author
Rudyard Kipling was Britain’s first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and a greater writer than most of his British successors; only T.S.Eliot is an artist of comparable stature. Yet Kipling’s name is seldom found today on a school or university syllabus while Eliot’s work is often a compulsory subject.
According to a BBC poll, Kipling’s ‘If’ is still Britain’s most favourite poem, but he himself is usually regarded with embarrassment in academic circles. He is too closely associated with British imperialism, he remains the everlasting icon of an Empire that until 1947 ruled a quarter of the globe and a quarter of its population.
Kipling was of course an imperialist, an apostle of the late Victorian empire who incarnated an era for millions of people who did not normally read poetry. Yet he was not, as many of his critics have alleged, a Jingoist, waving the flag and banging the drums for Britain. Unlike Tennyson, he wrote no stirring ballads about the heroism of Elizabethan sailors and the cavalrymen of the Light Brigade. He saw empire as a force for good, a benevolent despotism bringing the best of the West to the continents of the world. The message of his poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ was that it was the duty of the West, specifically Britain and the United States, to keep the peace, to bring justice and education, to protect minorities, to prevent people from dying of disease and starvation.

A child of the Victorian age of imperial self-confidence, Kipling lived to see the rise of Hitler threaten his country’s existence. The laureate of the Empire at its apogee, he foresaw that its demise would soon follow his death. His great poem ‘Recessional’ celebrated Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897; his last poems warned of the dangers of Nazism. The trajectory of his life matched the trajectory of the British Empire from its zenith to its final decades. He himself was transformed from the apostle of success to the prophet of national decline, a Cassandra warning of dangers that successive governments refused to face.

Previous works on Kipling have focused on his writing and on his domestic life. This is the first book to study his public role, his influence on the way Britons saw both themselves and their Empire.

back to top

Bookmark and Share Amazon UK | Blackwell Books |Simply Audio uk |fishpond books au|fishpond nz | amazon usa| link| | Award Headlines | Award Tragic blog |Literary Festivals Calender |
Literary Award News Service UK
British & Irish Book Awards Index | Children & Young Adult Awards | International Literary Awards

Literary Festivals Calendar- You know you want to go....