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Inside the Tudor Court by Lauren Mackay

Posted By Claire on March 28, 2014

Inside the Tudor CourtThe name ‘Eustace Chapuys’ is well-known to any Tudor historian, researcher and reader of Tudor books. Chapuys is famous for his despatches, which are invaluable to those writing about Henry VIII’s reign and the lives of prominent members of Henry VIII’s court, but most people know very little about the man behind the letters because there has never been a book written about him before. Just as Catherine Fletcher ‘fleshed out’ Gregorio Casali, Henry VIII’s man in Rome, in her book “The Divorce of Henry VIII”, Lauren Mackay has brought Chapuys, Charles V’s ambassador in England, to life.

It would be easy for a book on an ambassador to be dry and ‘text-bookish’ in style, but Lauren’s book is highly readable. She handles her subject by focusing on Chapuys’ time at Henry VIII’s court and looking at Henry’s marriages through his eyes, with reference to the despatches he wrote during that time. However, the reader is also given details on Chapuys’ background, his relationships with his family and his life after his departure from Henry’s court. Although I was obviously interested in the chapters covering Henry VIII’s marriages, and obviously the chapter on Anne Boleyn’s downfall, my favourite chapters were the earlier ones about Chapuys’ early life and then the chapters on Chapuys’ relationships with Mary and with Cromwell. Those who watched “The Tudors” series saw Chapuys act as a kind of father-figure to Mary during the breakdown of her relationship with her father and Lauren gives the reader a real insight into their relationship and it is clear that Chapuys cared deeply for Mary and went out of his way to help her. Gone is the gossipy, cynical Chapuys of many people’s imagination and in his place is a man of integrity.

Inside the Tudor Court is divided into twelves chapters:

  1. A Game of Politics – Here, we are introduced to Chapuys and given details on his earlier life.
  2. The New Imperial Ambassador at Henry’s Court – This chapter sets the scene for Chapuys’ arrival in England in August 1529 by giving us details on Henry VIII’s quest for an annulment.
  3. Into the Fray – This covers Chapuys’ relationships with those helping the King with the annulment proceedings, the diplomatic wranglings of the time, and Katherine of Aragon’s reaction to events.
  4. Pawn to Queen – Lauren reminds us that Chapuys was “a key player in a wide and elaborate game of diplomacy” which involved Henry VIII, Charles V and the Papacy. This chapter also covers Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne, arrangements for Anne’s coronation, and the start of a relationship between Chapuys and Cromwell, a relationship which was both of business and friendship.
  5. Royal Rivals – Chapuys’ handling of Katherine of Aragon, following Anne Boleyn’s coronation, his concern for Mary’s welfare and status, the birth of Elizabeth, Chapuys’ account of the visit of the Admiral of France, and the bloody events of 1535.
  6. Around the Throne the Thunder Rolls – This chapter takes us from Katherine of Aragon’s death, and Chapuys’ thoughts on it, to the execution of Anne Boleyn. We see the events through Chapuys’ eyes, through his despatches, and we see his shock at the turn of events.
  7. Sacrifice – A chapter on Henry VIII’s marriage to Jane Seymour and Chapuys’ hope that Jane would help Mary. It ends with negotiations for a new marriage match after the death of Jane Seymour.
  8. Mary – My favourite chapter because it gives full details on Chapuys’ rather paternal relationship with Mary and the way that he protected her and kept her safe.
  9. Cromwell – Another insightful chapter on Chapuys’ relationships with prominent people, this time Thomas Cromwell. I didn’t realise until I read this chapter that the two men were actually friends who spent leisure time together. It also covers Chapuys’ recall from England.
  10. Violent Imprints – This chapter covers Chapuys’ return to England in 1540 after Henry VIII’s divorce from Anne of Cleves and the downfall of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine Howard, Margaret Pole’s execution and the downfall of Catherine Howard.
  11. Glory – Chapuys’ negotiations with Henry VIII in early 1542 and the subsequent alliance between Henry VIII and Charles V, Chapuys’ ill health, war with France and breakdown of Henry’s relationship with Charles V, and Henry’s marriage to Katherine Parr.
  12. Legacy – Chapuys’ preparations for his departure from the English court, his farewell to Katherine Parr and Mary, his role as advisor to Charles V, and his final years.

The book also contains a preface, chapter notes, bibliography and 28 colour illustrations.

As Lauren Mackay concludes, “The Tudor court through Eustace’s eyes is a court of colour, life, intrigue and human nature that resonates with us even today”, and this book is full of that colour, life and intrigue as Lauren brings Chapuys to life. An excellent book on a fascinating man.

Book Details

The reports and despatches of Eustace Chapuys, Spanish Ambassador to Henry VIII’s court from 1529 to 1545, have been instrumental in shaping our modern interpretations of Henry VIII and his wives. As a result of his personal relationships with several of Henry’s queens, and Henry himself, his writings were filled with colourful anecdotes, salacious gossip, and personal and insightful observations of the key players at court, thus offering the single most continuous portrait of the central decades of Henry’s reign. Beginning with Chapuys’ arrival in England, in the middle of Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon, this book progresses through the episodic reigns of each of Henry’s queens. Chapuys tirelessly defended Katherine and later her daughter, Mary Tudor, the future Mary I. He remained as ambassador through the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, and reported on each and every one of Henry’s subsequent wives – Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Katharine Parr – as well as that most notorious of ministers Thomas Cromwell. He retired in 1545, close to the end of Henry VIII’s reign. In approaching the period through Chapuys’ letters, Lauren Mackay provides a fresh perspective on Henry, his court and the Tudor period in general.

Hardcover: 288 pages
Also available as an ebook
Publisher: Amberley (February 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445609576
ISBN-13: 978-1445609577
Available at, or your usual bookstore.


5 Responses to “Inside the Tudor Court by Lauren Mackay”

  1. Kimberley Barca says:

    Im always looking for new books on tudors, this really helped me look for more thanks!

  2. BanditQueen says:

    This is one of the best insider views of the court of Henry VIII that exists and I have been really enjoying the way it is brought to life in the reports of Chapys and those of the other Ambassador when he is absent during the six month marriage to Anne of Cleves. His reports are also surprising in places, as in many of them they do not call Anne concubine or even lady but Anna de Boullana and this at least sounds respectful. Chapyris may have refused to acknowledge Anne as Queen but it is clear that he did not always insult her as he is always accused of doing.

    I think also that his reports about Katherine and her exile match those of the Duke of Suffolk when he went to attempt to remove her and was obviously not keen on the job; Chapyrs seems to keep a real close eye on what is going on, especially Mary, when the Emperor seems to forget about her. This man was genuinely liked by both Katherine and Henry and by his latter wives as well, especially Katherine Parr and Jane Seymour who he grew to know well. He was well educated, clever and sensitive, able to balance out the changing hostile factions inside the court and the foreign wars of his master verses the political mind games played by Anne and Henry in England.

    Eustace was well respected and even though some historians write him off as it is often claimed that he was an enemy of Anne and so his reports are biased, but in fact Eustace gives us the clearest reports about what the people in our story are up to, from behind the curtain if you like. There is some bias, but he was never going to be a fan of Anne Boleyn, the woman that Henry married to replace, the lady he saw as the true Queen Katherine of Aragon. His master was the Holy Roman Emperor and a devout Catholic and in the eyes of Catholic Europe and Catholic England (for England was a Catholic country prior to the final break with Rome in 1534 and most of her people Catholic at the time) Henry was not lawfully married to Anne Boleyn. It is not surprising that in some of his letters to his master that he reports things that do not show Anne in a good light or her relationship with the King; for example when he reports that Henry hardly speaks to the Queen after an alleged miscarriage. There are examples of him appearing to relish the misfortunes or to bring to the public the rumours that Anne has made threats against Mary and Katherine. We may see this as Anne ranting, but I am sure that Eustace had a real concern that Anne may be unstable enough to carry out this threat and he was being protective of Mary, whom he cared for as his own daughter. His concerns are also echoed by the fact that Anne was warned not to be so silly and that such things would serve only to anger the King.

    Many more reports from Eustace simply tell us what was going on behind the scenes and appear to be accurate and can be trusted. He even from time to time gives us hints about the sources that he uses and the author has brought those sources to light showing a lively network of informants and those whom we can look at to tell us about life with Henry and his wives, giving a more intimate portrait and allowing us to see into the minds of the bedroom dramas of Henry, Anne and the others. We can I believe through this study find the real characters and the fears and hopes that they had. We can also see a man who is concerned with those he wants to protect and who is genuinely liked and able to bring to life all those he attempts to serve. I would recommend this book as the best insight into Chaprys and the real happenings at the court of Henry VIII.

  3. SuZan Morton says:

    I want the truth.

  4. SuZan Morton says:

    The truth vs History books isc what I prefer & enjoy.

  5. Fran says:

    I can wait to get this book.
    I thin we need to know more about him and see out of his eyes on what was going on at all times in the Tudor court and I think he should now a lot.

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