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Top Tudor Books

We’re living in a Tudor mad world which is great news for us Tudor history fans and those of us who enjoy an historical novel or biography.

You can see a full range of Tudor and Anne Books atof our special “The Anne Boleyn Files”Amazon US and Amazon UK stores, but here are some of my top picks:-

Non-Fiction

Eric Ives Eric Ives’ biography, “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, is in my opinion the definitive guide to the life and times of this iconic Queen. It gives an account of Anne Boleyn from her background, through her courtship with Henry and her life as Queen, to her trial, judgement and execution.

My copy is always at hand and I like it because it gives so much detail and Ives cites all of his sources. It has well over 400 pages of information.

Retha WarnickeIn “The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn”, American historian and Professor of History at Arizona University, Retha Warnicke, gives what she calls “an analysis of the crucial phases of her [Anne Boleyn] life and more specifically of her role in the politics of her day, with particular emphasis on the rules and conventions of the society in which she played her part”.

This is a great book written by someone with a real knowledge and understanding of the Tudor period.

Joanna Denny “Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen” by Joanna Denny is an excellent biography of Anne Boleyn which attempts to paint a true picture of this much maligned woman. According to Denny “No English Queen has made more impact on the history of the nation than Anne Boleyn, and few have been so persistently maligned”.
Love Letters I love this book, the “Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn”, because it contains seventeen love letters that Henry VIII wrote to Anne Boleyn plus a letter that Anne wrote to Wolsey with a postscript by Henry.

The letters really do give you an insight into Henry’s feelings for Anne Boleyn and the passion that drove him to break with Rome so that he could marry Anne.

Six WivesDr David Starkey is a Tudor historian and an expert on Henry VIII and in this book he gives accounts of each of the six Queens of Henry VIII – Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr.

Starkey argues that Henry VIII was not the serial philanderer that many think he was, but simply a man in search of love and a male heir.

The Wives of Henry VIII“The Wives of Henry VIII” by historian, Antonia Fraser, was a New York Times bestseller for over six weeks and is said to be one of the best biographies, if not the best, of Henry VIII’s six wives.

Fraser meticulously researched the period and historical characters and includes 32 pages of illustrations and 16 color plates in the book. It is a comprehensive book for anyone who wants to learn more about the six characters who rose to be Queens of England.

Mistresses Historian Kelly Hart gives a detailed account of all the women who were part of Henry VIII’s life, not just his six wives. In this book we learn more about Lady Anne Stafford, Bessie Blount, Mary Boleyn, “the handsome young lady” of 1534, Mary Shelton, Étienette de la Baum, Elizabeth Amadas and many more. Hart also takes a look at Henry VIII’s illegitimate children and gives a fascinating insight into his life with his six wives, including his passionate love for Anne Boleyn, his heartbreak over Catherine Howard and his deep friendship with Anne of Cleves. A brilliant read!

Fiction

Anne Boleyn’s story, from her meteoric rise to fame to her dramatic fall from grace, is enough to inspire anyone and it has inspired many great writers. Here are some Anne Boleyn or Tudor novels that I have enjoyed or that others have recommended to me:-

The Other Boleyn GirlMany Anne Boleyn fans have told me that their fascination with Anne Boleyn started after reading this novel by Philippa Gregory.

Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” tells the story of the Boleyn sister, Mary and Anne, and their relationships with Henry VIII. The girls are used as pawns by their father, Thomas Boleyn, and their uncle, the Duke of Northumberland, to raise the profile and the wealth of the Boleyn family and faction – but at what cost? We all know how Anne’s story ends, but it is great to get inside the character of Mary Boleyn (Mary Carey), who was Henry’s mistress and might well have been mother to two of his children.

Although it is not historically accurate, it is a compelling novel that you will not be able to put down.

The Secret Diary of Anne BoleynThis novel tells both the story of Elizabeth I, Queen of England and daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, and also of Anne Boleyn.

In the novel, Elizabeth receives a secret diary kept by Anne Boleyn and learns the true story of her mother’s rise and fall. It is a story which changes Elizabeth, when she reads her mother’s words “Never relinquish control to any man”, and which shapes her destiny. It’s a great read.

Murder Most Royal“Murder Most Royal: The Story of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard” by Jean Plaidy is a fantastic blend of Tudor history and drama. Plaidy recounts the story of one powerful king and two doomed cousins, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, who both rise to be Queens of England and then are both beheaded.

I haven’t read it yet, but it keeps being recommended to me! People say that Plaidy brings both the characters to life, humanizing them, and the events to life. Another page turner which is famous the world over.

The Concubine“The Concubine” by the historical novelist, Norah Lofts, tells the story of Henry VIII’s love and passion for Anne Boleyn – a passion that has him defying advisers and friends, and moving heaven and earth to make her his own.

Written in 1963, it is still a popular historical novel today.

A Lady Raised HighFrom Laurien Gardner, the author of “The Spanish Bride” (about Catherine of Aragon), this is Anne Boleyn’s story told by country girl, Frances Pearce, who enters Anne Boleyn’s circle and becomes a friend to the Queen.

As Anne’s story unfolds, Frances learns just how quickly the tide can turn against you.

A great novel if you need a break from the Philippa Gregory ones!

The Queen of Subtleties“The Queen of Subtleties” by Suzannah Dunn tells the story of Anne Boleyn from two different points of view – Anne herself and Lucy Cornwallis, the King’s confectioner.

As well as being responsible for creating the confectionary masterpieces that mark the events that lead to Anne’s rise in favour, Lucy also has something else in common with Anne Boleyn – Mark Smeaton.

Described by “Publisher’s Weekly” as a ” delicious romp through the romance, politics and drama of 16th-century England”, this novel has mixed reviews on Amazon – best to make your own mind up.

The Boleyn Inheritance“The Boleyn Inheritance” by Philippa Gregory moves on from where “The Other Boleyn Girl” left off (plus a bit!). The story is told by three very different characters – Anne of Cleves, who is leaving her home in Germany to become Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Catherine Howard, a teenager who is lady- in-waiting to Anne but who catches the King’s interest, and Lady Rochford (Jane Boleyn/Parker), wife of the late George Boleyn and the one said to have accused Anne and George of incest.

Although I do get annoyed with historical inaccuracies (I have to keep saying “It’s fiction!” to myself), I loved this book and was instantly hooked.

Brief Gaudy Hour“Brief Gaudy Hour” by Margaret Campbell Barnes has been recommended to me by so many people and has got great reviews on Amazon – it’s on my list of “must-reads”!

Through meticulous research into Anne Boleyn and this period of history, Margaret Campbell Barnes has been able to bring Anne Boleyn’s character to life and draw the reader in to life at the Tudor Court. Many people have told me that Anne is portrayed as “likeable” and that you spend the novel hoping for a different ending!

Mademoiselle BoleynIn “Mademoiselle Boleyn”, Robin Maxwell tells the story of Anne Boleyn BEFORE she met Henry VIII and thsi novel actually ends with her meeting him. We learn of Anne’s childhood in France, her life at the French Court, her relationship with her father, her dismay at what happens to her sister, Mary, and her love for Henry Percy.

Although it is a fictional account of Anne’s early life, it gives us some insight of what made Anne who she was.

The above links are all Amazon US links, but all the books are also available at Amazon UK – click here to go to our special Amazon Anne Boleyn UK page.

Alison Weir Anne Boleyn Book Launch

According to Alison Weir’s website, Alison Weir will be launching her latest Anne Boleyn book, “The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn” at the Tower of London on 9th September 2009.

The evening is going to be a joint event with Tracy Borman, author of “Elizabeth’s Women”, which is also being launched that night, and will include a special tour of the Tower, a joint presentation by Alison and Tracey, entitled “The Whore and the Virgin”, drinks and canapes, and a book signing session.

Tickets are not yet available, but keep an eye on Alison Weir’s website – the News Page – for details.

You can pre-order Alison’s book at Amazon US or Amazon UK.

19 Responses to “Top Tudor Books”

  1. Arleigh says:

    I’ve read most of these and have to say that The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy beats them all. You should list it.

  2. Maya says:

    I agree, Arleigh – The Lady in the Tower was a terrific book; I also really enjoyed The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn. I just got ‘Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen’ and ‘Mademoiselle Boleyn’ for my birthday, so I’m very excited to read those 🙂

  3. Lauren says:

    I got The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn for Christmas and enjoyed it so much that it only took me a few hours to read. The Other Boleyn Girl is one of my favourite books of all time, as is The Boleyn Inheritance. I would also recommend ‘The Lady Elizabeth’ and ‘Innocent Traitor’ by Alison Weir, both historical fiction novels, the first involving Elizabeth and the second Lady Jane Grey.
    Thank you for the recommendations, I will be writing them down for my birthday!!
    xxx

  4. Bess (Elizabeth) Chilver says:

    I would echo that Jean Plaidy’s ‘The Lady in the Tower’ is the best fiction account of Anne Boleyn. It makes Anne really live again.

  5. Hannah says:

    Thanks for the list Claire. Here are my comments on the ones I have read:

    Anne Boleyn by Joanna Denny- I loved reading this book. Yes, some people frown on the author’s obvious contempt for the Catholic church, but I think we have to remember that we all have our opinions, and a history textbook written without a hint of feeling would be extremely boring! I learned a lot that I didn’t know about Anne from this book, and I couldn’t put it down whlie reading it.

    The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser- What a balanced and well-written book. While this does not make for light reading, it’s an essential to anyone who wishes to further understand the effect of Henry VIII’s wives on his reign and the lives and characters of the wives themselves.

    The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory- This novel is, in my opinion, completely addictive. I have read it several times now. I think Ms. Gregory is a very talented writer of fiction.

    The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell- This is the book that sparked my interest in Anne when I was just eleven! It’s a great book and I like to think that Anne did have a diary that was given to Elizabeth, even though there’s no evidence of this.

    The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory- I thought this was one of Ms. Gregory’s best works of fiction.

    Mademoiselle Boleyn by Robin Maxwell- I love the image of Anne’s younger years as illustrated in this novel!

    I hope to read the rest soon! 🙂

  6. Joanne says:

    Just found your site and well I’m wallowing in it. I got hooked on the Tudor era a very long time ago when Elizabeth R played on PBS and the Six Wives series also. Margaret Irwin wrote three books about Elizabeth as a young girl, starting with Young Bess which was made into a movie with Jean Simmons playing Elizabeth. They were addictive. Alison Weir’s books about the children of Henry VIII and her bio of Elizabeth were both good. I think I read her Six Wives book but don’t really remember it well.

    I was NOT impressed so much with The Other Boleyn Girl. It just bugged me. I liked that Mary was in the spotlight as it were but her depiction of Anne was more than a bit off to me. The Boleyn Inheritance was much better in that you got the feeling of terror everyone around Henry had to be feeling. Anne of Cleves was especially good in this one. I found myself feeling very sorry for Katherine Howard in this book also.

    I’ve been building a massive list for Amazon from this site since most of my serious Tudor reading was done about 30yrs ago, and there have been so many newer books out since then. I thank you for this site and all the fun I am having exploring it!

  7. Claire Karapidaki says:

    I’ve read about half of the books listed so far, and i have to say Eric Ives’ biography of Anne
    Boleyn is one of my most favorites. I am currently in the middle of Alison Weirs’ “The six wives of Henry VIII” and i’ve been seaching for reviews for it since i find it really entertaining and punctual – has anyone here read it? Or “Murder most Royal”?

    I agree with Hanna, on “The Other Boleyn Girl” by Philippa Gregory- what an addictive novel!

    I’m a Tudors history fan and i have to say i love this website so much! Claire, i so admire your work, i hope to one day get to book a place in the Anne Boleyn Experience tour and meet you too in person:-)

    Claire from Greece

  8. Nishita says:

    There is another Jean Plaidy book that deals with Anne’s story rather indirectly through the viewpoint of Sir Thomas More. It’s called St. Thomas’s Eve, and it is interesting to see how Plaidy imagines his reactions to her would be…considering his background.

  9. Rose says:

    Surprisingly, I didn’t like ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ very much and I thought it was a bit slow. ‘The Boleyn Inheritance’ on the other hand is probably one of my favourite Tudor Novels! I’m a big fan of Alison Weir’s works too.

  10. Vatallanii says:

    I seriously reccomend – The last Boleyn. It is amazing!!

  11. Liz says:

    As far as fiction, I was hoping to see some Alison Weir here. I own and LOVE quite a few of these books (especially Eric Ives). But I just can’t find any other author that tops Weir’s work.

  12. RxPhan says:

    I found an older biography of Anne, printed in 1972 by Marie Louise Bruce. So far, it is excellent.

  13. Nicole says:

    I have consumed many a book on the Tudors and especially all the ladies involved, be it Henry’s wives, daughters, mistresses and others caught up in the drama. The lists and reviews available on this site are a great resource, both when you’re starting out and for someone looking to find something new and fresh. However, I was disappointed that Antonia Fraser’s exemplary “The wives of Henry VIII” does not have a full review and its mention is limited to a few sentences amongst a jumble of other titles, some with more merit that others. It’s an incredible book that’s a must for anyone, especially those whose experiences with the Tudors have been via the tv show or Philippa Gregory’s novels or movie. Antonia Fraser’s book is easy to read, it is well researched, and has enought depth without being overwhelming. As with all of the characters in her books, be it Anne Boylen, Charles II, Oliver Cromwell or Louis XIV, to name a few, the six wives come to life and make you empathise with them. “The Wives of Henry VIII” as well as Antonia Frasier’s other titles are an absolute must for anyone who loves English and French history!

  14. Jaina says:

    Claire
    I am a great fan of your website and think you have done a brillant job on The Anne Boleyn Files.
    However, i have to really disagree with you calling the biography of Anne Boleyn by Joanna Denny “excellent”. I am at the moment doing a research topic on Annes fall and i decided to give this book a try.
    I have to say this Denny is not a good historian. She is heavily biased towards anne to the point of hero worship, is blatantly anti-catholic, has no sympathy for Katherine of aragon and proposes several utterly ridiculous theories.(Anne had a step mother? )
    I dont want to be rude but i thought Dennys book was useless and filled with prejudice.
    A good historian needs to be objective, non-biased, meticulous and critical.
    Denny is simply not good historian(my copy of her book has only one recoomending quote-Maureen Waller) she fails miserably at giving any new scope to annes life.
    I personally would not recommend this book. it presents nothing new and honestly there are much better books on Anne out there (Antionia Fraser, Eris Ives and Alison Weir)

  15. Coline says:

    Hi Claire!

    I’ve just seen that Elizabeth Norton published a new book “The Anne Boleyn Papers”. Have you read it? Can you tell me more about this book? Is it good? And what the difference between it and the book “Anne Boleyn in Her Own Words & the Words of Those Who Knew Her”?

    Thanks.

  16. Claire says:

    It’s actually not new, it’s a re-issue of her book “Anne Boleyn In Her Own Words and The Words of Those Who Knew Her”, which I have read. It’s a collection of primary source documents on Anne and is a very good resource.

  17. jed says:

    I must say, I am both surprised and dismayed not to find Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies’ there. In my humble opinion, these works of literary genius should have topped the list of which a lot of the the books I have read and enjoyed.

  18. Lexi says:

    I actually wasn’t a huge fan of Jean Plaidy’s Lady in the tower. I love Jean Plaidy, have read a ton of her works and want to read more, yet I just couldn’t get into this one! I cannot really describe why I’m not a fan of it – by all accounts, I should be! – but I don’t know
    This one just did not do it for me. I loved Doomed Queen Anne by Carolyn Meyer, Mademoiselle Boley by Robin Maxwell, and am currently reading both Virgin (about Elisabeth I) and the Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, both by Robin Maxwell (I believe). I will be reading several from this list, however, as I can never get enough of the Tudors.

  19. Diana Rubino says:

    When I was trying to decide what to write my first historical novel about in 1990, I stumbled upon BLAZE WYNDHAM by Bertrice Small. Already a fan, I devoured the book, about a beautiful woman who becomes Henry VIII’s mistress. She inspired me to write my first historical THE JEWELS OF WARWICK.
    BLAZE is still my favorite Tudor book, although I’ve read a ton of them!
    My second favorite Tudor book, and one of my all-time favorites is THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII WITH NOTES BY HIS FOOL WILL SOMERS by Margaret George. It’s the next best thing to time traveling back to Henry’s court.
    Diana

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