James Reply to on 25 August 2016
|The Tudor dynasty only ruled over England for approximately one hundred and eighteen years, relatively small when compared to the Plantagenets or the Stuarts rule over Scotland. Yet even people with little interest in history are drawn to this period, largely thanks to Showtimes series 'The Tudors' (2007-2010) and countless Hollywood movies set during this era. But also because this period has something for everyone, including drama, battles, romance, politics, the list is endless. People just can't get enough of the story of Henry VIII and his six wives, or Elizabeth I and her endless suitors, not to mention that inspiring Tilbury speech.
In her latest book, Dr Tracy Borman takes on a new angle examining these fascinating people, by looking at the private lives of the Monarchs and their consorts, behind the closed doors in their sumptuous Palaces. A lot of the stereotypes labelled on these people, such as Henry VII being a boring old miser, Edward VI being a puppet King, Mary I a dried up spinster incapable of fun, etc, are debunked here with evidence stating the contrary. Readers will come away from this seeing many- if not all- of these people in a new light.
The book is not intended to be a biography, but more a glimpse into life at the Tudor court, everything from the clothing, diet and hobbies, are examined. Henry VII spending much money on rich clothing will be a revelation to many. As will the topic of what we still have today of items that belonged to each of the Monarchs and what they can tell us about them as people. My personal favourites were the mementos Elizabeth I kept of her mother Anne Boleyn, as well as the documents and letters Edward VI kept reffering to his mother Jane Seymour.
What is so special about this book is it succeeds to bringing to life the Tudors as real people. It is easy to read many history books and feel that they each come off as very one-dimensional. But here, we get as close to the real people as we can get. And they all come live more as having been real people, with real emotions. And that is all to Tracy Borman's credit.
It was also interesting to read more about the set up of meals at court, and the number of dishes brought out, and how someone's status would determine how many courses they would get. Other interesting topics include the discussion of clothes, and how they would determine someone's status and wealth, and the changing of the fashions over the period. Also of particular interest was the topic of the set up of the Private Apartments, how far people of certain status would get, and what the duties for the vast number of staff attending the Monarchs and their consorts consisted off.
Prepare to have the way you view these people challenged, as you read this book, as you learn more about the people behind the glittering crowns and jewels, and learn of their struggles to hold onto power, through image, and keep that mystique around the Monarchy, whilst also having the personal touch. The only downside is you will definitely wish the book went on for longer.
Even those who find most history books quite dry, will easily enjoy this, thanks to Tracy Borman's easy to read and engaging writing, while people who have read many history books will discover more. It is a book for everyone. A truly informative and thoroughly enjoyable read.