As I’m sure most of my friends (and really, anyone who has known me for a decent amount of time) could tell you, I have a fascination with all things Tudor (and, the Medieval and Victorian ages, although we’ll leave that for another time).
Consider my work desk, at which I have a cloth poster of Henry VIII and his six wives, as well as a tin with a picture of a cat dressed as everyone’s favourite ginger tyrant. I am not even close to kidding on this one, folks.
As a result, I’ve certainly read my fair share of books about and inspired by the era. So, ranging from cookbooks to bodice-busters, here’s my list of top five Tudor-tastic reads.
- Shakespeare’s Kitchen (Francine Segan) A superb survey of dishes popular during the late Tudor/Elizabethan eras. Most are based on actual recipes of the period, which are present along with adapted versions for the modern cook. Lots of pictures!
- The Autobiography of Henry VIII (Margaret George) Although the book does have its problems (such as stereotyping the wives pretty heavily), it offers a portrait of Henry VIII that is certainly more nuanced and contextualized than many predecessors.
- Tudor: The Family Story (Leanda de Lisle) Designed for the layperson and amateur history buff, the book gives a good general history of the Tudor family, with a surprising amount of detail along the way.
- Tudor Monastery Farm A companion book to the TV series (HIGHLY recommended), which details the minutiae of running a monastery farm during the Tudor era. Very fine example of domestic history. Lots of pictures!
- Wolf Hall/Bring Up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel) Part of a planned trilogy, these books illuminate the character of Tudor mover-and-shaker Thomas Cromwell, who emerges as a much more complex character than usually portrayed.
And the honourable-mention awards go to:
- The Other Boleyn Girl (Philippa Gregory) Made into a meh movie, the novel details the fraught relationships between Henry VIII and siblings Mary Carey (nee Boleyn) and Anne Boleyn. I am sincerely glad my relationship with my sister is significantly more cordial than this hot mess.
- Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (David Starkey) Exactly what it says on the tin. Amazing level of detail, with the lion’s share going to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.
I’d love to time travel to this period. Providing I didn’t die in childbirth, catch the plague, or be burned as a witch, of course. Unfortunately, all of these were extremely likely outcomes for a sassy lady like me. Think I’ll stick to reading for the mo.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my ruff needs starching.