Past Wrench Speakers
The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream
Lord Charles Spencer

Wednesday, November 10, 2021, at 6:00 PM EDT


As a “kickoff” event to the revitalization of the Evelyn Wrench Speaker Series, the English-Speaking Union has the honor of hosting Lord Charles Spencer as he discusses his new book, The White Ship.

Described as “Game of Thrones meets The Titanic,” The White Ship has been a UK non-fiction bestseller in the London ‘Times’ for 3 months for its riveting storytelling of the disastrous shipwreck that claimed the life of King Henry I’s only legitimate heir, William, and the subsequent challenges of Henry I’s only legitimate daughter, Empress Matilda, as she struggled to claim the throne.

In this lecture, Charles Spencer will take the audience on a spectacular journey into the past, exploring the historical consequences of The White Ship’s ruin. There will be an audience Q & A session to follow the lecture.


About Lord Charles Spencer

Charles Spencer was educated at Eton and obtained his MA in Modern History at Oxford University. He is a historian, journalist, and the author of eight non-fiction books, including three Sunday Times bestsellers– Blenheim: Battle for Europe (2004) (shortlisted for History Book of the Year, National Book Awards), Killers Of The King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I (2015), and The White Ship.

Spencer worked for NBC News as an on-air correspondent from 1986 to 1995, primarily for the Today show, but also for Sunday Today, NBC Nightly News, and NBC Super Channel

Hilary Davidson

Hilary Davidson is a dress historian and curator based between Sydney and London. She was curator of fashion Hilary Davidsonand decorative arts at the Museum of London 2007-2012, is a consultant on historic textiles for the Oxford English Dictionary, and has published and broadcast extensively on dress history, including presenting on the BBC documentary Pride & Prejudice: Having a Ball (2013). Hilary is currently completing a PhD, and is an honorary associate at the University of Sydney. Her reconstruction of Jane Austen’s pelisse coat (Costume, 2015) led to an extensive study of British Regency dress, published as Dress in the Age of Jane Austen (Yale University Press, 2019).

Jane Austen’s novels have become synonymous with early nineteenth century fashion, especially through filmed adaptations of her work. But what did people in this period really wear? How would Austen, her family and her characters have dressed as they moved through the countryside, villages and cities of late Georgian England? This lecture explores the world of Regency clothing to bring to life the fashionable communities behind Austen’s immortal words, based on years of new research in archives and museums.

Annamaria Dall’Anese: Shakespeare’s London

Annamaria works as a Blue-badge guide of London, where she conducts private tours to show domestic and international clients both the most iconic landmarks and the hidden gems of the British capital. Prior to settling in Britain, she lived in over a dozen countries over four continents, where she had the opportunity to develop her passion for the arts and foreign languages. Besides sharing her knowledge of the history of London with her visitors, Annamaria is currently conducting anthropological research at the doctoral level and is completing her second self-published book.


“In our virtual tour of Shakespeare’s London we will discover the places where the Bard lived and worked, including the Blackfriars Playhouse and the Globe Theatre. We will also get a taste of what going to the theatre and living in the British capital was like in his time.”

Sir Christopher Hum, KCMG

Former British Ambassador to China
Wednesday, March 16 at 6 PM EDT


Will China Rule the World?

On his first visit to China, during the tumult of the Cultural Revolution, Christopher Hum watched Chairman Mao receive the adoration of his Red Guards. He lived there in all for ten years, as a diplomat and as British Ambassador between 2002 and 2005, and saw its transformation into the superpower it is today. In his lecture, he gives a first-hand account of China’s rise and asks whether today’s resurgent China is a threat or an opportunity for the world.


Admission pricing:

$20 for ESU members
$25 for non-ESU members.

This will be an in-person event at the English-Speaking Union, located at 144 E 39th Street, New York, NY 10016. The event will be held at 6pm EDT.


Seats are limited for this event.
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required for entry. Masks will be required at all times during the event.


Taking tea with the Dragon: Ambassador in Beijing

Christopher Hum has been observing developments in China for over forty years: he lived there for ten years as a diplomat and was British Ambassador to China between 2002 and 2005. In his lecture he recalls the life and times of an Ambassador in Beijing, the people he met and the places he visited; and he discusses the place of a resurgent China in the 21st century.


Christopher Hum joined Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service in 1967 and much of his diplomatic career was connected with China. He studied Chinese at Hong Kong University and went on to spend a total of eight years in postings to the British Embassy in Beijing, culminating in four years as British Ambassador (2002-2005). He also served in the Asian departments of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and for several years was closely involved in the negotiations on the return of Hong Kong to China. Other overseas postings included Brussels (European Communities), Paris, the United Nations in New York and Warsaw (as Ambassador, 1996-1998).

Between 2006 and 2012 Christopher Hum was Master of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, where he remains as a Life Fellow. He is a commentator on China in the media and has just completed a post-graduate degree in East Asian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University.

Elizabeth St.John

Elizabeth St.John was brought up in England and lives in California. She has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, to Castle Fonmon and The Tower of London Although her ancestors sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it’s hard to keep a good castle going these days), Lucy and her family still occupy them – in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint.


About The Lady of the Tower

London, 1609. When Lucy St.John, a beautiful highborn orphan at the court of King James, is seduced by the Earl of Suffolk, she never imagines the powerful enemy she creates in his beloved sister, the Countess of Rochester. Or that her own sister Barbara would betray her and force Lucy to leave the court in disgrace. Spirited, educated, and skilled in medicine and precious remedies, Lucy fights her way back into society, and through an unexpected love match, becomes mistress of the Tower of London. Living inside the walls of the infamous prison, she defies plague, political intrigues and tragic executions to tend to aristocratic prisoners and criminals alike.Now married into the immensely powerful Villiers family, Barbara unites with the king’s favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, to raise the fortunes of Lucy and her family to dizzying heights. But with great wealth comes treachery, leaving Lucy to fight for her survival—and her honor—in a world of deceit and debauchery. Elizabeth St.John’s critically acclaimed debut novel tells the true story of her ancestress Lucy through her family’s surviving diaries, letters, and court papers. Lucy’s personal friendships with historical figures such as Sir Walter Raleigh and the Stuart kings brings a unique perspective to the history of seventeenth-century England.