Posted By Claire on August 29, 2013
Historian Leanda de Lisle’s new book, Tudor: The Family Story, has just been released in the UK and I was fortunate to be sent a review copy. You could be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing more to say about the Tudors after the books by G. J. Meyer, Peter Ackroyd, Richard Rex… but you’d be mistaken. What sets this book apart from the others is that it really is a family story, a biography of these iconic monarchs, rather than a ‘text book’. Another thing that sets it apart is that de Lisle doesn’t just tell the stories of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I, she also tells the stories of other members of the Tudor family – people like Margaret Beaufort, Margaret Tudor and Margaret Douglas – and gives the background to the Tudor dynasty: the Wars of the Roses. It’s chock-a-block full of information but is also easy to read because of de Lisle’s style. Julian Fellowes describes it as an “enthralling story” and it really is, plus de Lisle has new perspectives and insights to offer on the fall of Anne Boleyn, the Princes in the Tower and Elizabeth I’s reign, amongst others. It seems strange to call a non-fiction history book “a thrilling read”, but it is!
Another thing about the book is that de Lisle has managed to tell a story which takes the reader from the funeral of Catherine of Valois in 1437 to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 in just over 400 pages. She does not scrimp on detail so I’m left thinking that she wove some kind of magic spell on her work, either that or she has a talent for being very succinct. I also like the extras in the book. Not only is the book fully referenced (a dream book for history researchers and those who like to check sources themselves), but it also has five appendices covering interesting topics and myths, a map of English and French territories in the 15th century, family trees and illustrations – wonderful! I hope my enjoyment of the book is coming across!
I know many of you like to know what a book actually covers, so here are some brief details on chapters…
Part One – The Coming of the Tudors: A Mother’s Love
- 1 – An Ordinary Man – Here, de Lisle tells the story of Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois.
- 2 – A Child Bride – Background on Margaret Beaufort, her marriage to Edmund Tudor and the birth of Henry Tudor (VII).
- 3 – A Prisoner, Honourably Brought Up – More on Owen Tudor and Margaret Beaufort, and Henry VII’s upbringing.
- 4 – The Wheel of Fortune – This chapter covers the period 1469-1472 and gives details on the involvement of Henry Tudor, his uncle Jasper Tudor and his stepfather Stafford in the battles during this period.
- 5 – Enter Richard III – The death of Edward IV, accession of Edward V and the accession of Richard III.
- 6 – The Princes in the Tower – Here, de Lisle explores what we know about the Princes, along with the rumours, myths and legends.
- 7 – The Exile – Henry Tudor’s exile in Brittany and his plans for claiming the English throne.
- 8 – Bosworth – Details on the battle that saw the end of Richard III’s short reign and the start of the Tudor era. The new evidence regarding Richard’s injuries and death is woven into the account.
- 9 – The Rose and the Passion – The coronation of Henry VII, his marriage to Elizabeth of York and her first pregnancy.
- 10 – Securing the Succession – The birth of Prince Arthur, Margaret Beaufort’s status and involvement in things, and Henry VII’s quashing of the challenge initiated by the Earl of Lincoln.
- 11 – The Lost Prince – Richard, Duke of York and Perkin Warbeck
- 12 – Punishment – The marriage of Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur, and the death of Arthur.
- 13 – Death and Judgement – The marriage of Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland, negotiations regarding marriage plans for Mary Tudor, and Henry VII’s death.
- 14 – Exit Margaret Beaufort – The accession of Henry VIII, his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and the death of Margaret Beaufort.
Part Two – Inheritance: The Legacy of Arthur
- 15 – The Elder Sister: Margaret, Queen of Scots – The birth of James V, the death of James IV and what it meant for Margaret, and Margaret’s marriage to the Earl of Angus.
- 16 – The Younger Sister: Mary, the French Queen – Mary’s marriage to Louis XII, Mary’s coronation, the death of Louis, and Mary’s marriage to Charles Brandon.
- 17 – A Family Reunion and a Royal Rival – The situation in Scotland in 1515, Margaret’s flight to England and her reunion with her brother, Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon’s pregnancies, the births of Mary Tudor and Henry’s illegitimate son, and the fall of the Duke of Buckingham.
- 18 – Enter Anne Boleyn – Henry Fitzroy’s elevation, negotiations regarding a marriage match for Princess Mary and Henry VIII’s relationship with Anne Boleyn.
- 19 – A Marriage on Trial – Henry VIII’s quest for an annulment.
- 20 – The Return of Margaret Douglas – Margaret Tudor’s daughter’s arrival at the English court, the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage and the coronation of Anne Boleyn.
- 21 – The Terror Begins – The christening of Elizabeth (I), the executions of Elizabeth Barton, John Fisher, Thomas More and the Carthusian monks, the death of Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage.
- 22 – The Fall of Anne Boleyn – De Lisle gives details on the fall of Anne Boleyn and her thoughts on it.
- 23 – Love and Death – Anne Boleyn’s execution (including De Lisle’s theory regarding the sword), the succession problem, Thomas Howard and Margaret Douglas, and the Pilgrimage of Grace.
- 24 – Three Wives – The birth of Edward VI and death of Jane Seymour, and Henry’s marriages to Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard.
- 25 – The Last Years of Henry VIII – Henry’s marriage to Katherine Parr, Henry’s will and the issue of the succession, and Henry VIII’s death.
- 26 – Elizabeth in Danger – The accession of Edward VI, Elizabeth’s time with Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour, Seymour’s fall and the danger to Elizabeth.
- 27 – Mary in Danger – The rise of John Dudley and Mary’s defiance of Edward VI’s religious measures.
- 28 – The Last Tudor King – Edward VI’s illness, his plans for the succession and his death.
Part Three – Setting Sun: The Tudor Queens
- 29 – Nine Days – The short reign of Lady Jane Grey and the accession of Mary I.
- 30 – Revolt – Wyatt’s Revolt and the execution of Lady Jane Grey.
- 31 – Marriage and Sons – The marriage of Mary I and Philip of Spain, the Restoration and Mary’s Counter-Reformation, and Mary’s false pregnancy.
- 32 – A Flickering Light – Mary I’s death and the accession of Elizabeth I.
- 33 – A Married Man – Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley.
- 34 – Dangerous Cousins – The death of Amy Dudley, Elizabeth’s problems with her cousins: Margaret Douglas and Katherine Grey, and the problem of Mary, Queen of Scots and her claim to the throne.
- 35 – Royal Prisoners – More on Margaret Douglas and Katherine Grey.
- 36 – Murder in the Family – The assassination of Lord Darnley, the death of Katherine Grey and the Northern Rebellion.
- 37 – Exit Margaret Douglas – The fall of the Duke of Norfolk, the marriage of Charles Stuart (son of Margaret Douglas) and Elizabeth Cavendish (daughter of Bess of Hardwick), the birth of Arbella Stuart, the deaths of Charles Stuart and Margaret Douglas.
- 38 – The Virgin Queen – The coining of the phrase the “Virgin Queen” and the cost of Elizabeth’s spinsterhood.
- 39 – The Daughter of Debate – The trial and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots
- 40 – The Armada – Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada.
- 41 – Setting Sun – The death of Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s “malaise” and the issue of the succession.
- 42 – The Hollow Crown – Elizabeth’s deterioration, Arbella Stuart’s marriage plans, and the death of Elizabeth I.
- What happened to the body of James IV
- The Mysterious Quarrel between Henry VIII and Margaret Douglas
- Guildford and Jane Dudley
- The Myth of Frances Brandon the Child Abuser
- The Obscure Margaret Clifford, Heir to the Throne 1578-96
The Tudors are a national obsession; they are our most notorious family in history. But, as Leanda de Lisle shows in this gripping new history, beyond the well-worn headlines is a family still more extraordinary than the one we thought we knew.
The Tudor canon typically starts with the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, before speeding on to Henry VIII and the Reformation. But this leaves out the family’s obscure Welsh origins, the ordinary man known as Owen Tudor who would fall (literally) into a Queen’s lap, and later her bed. It passes by the courage of Margaret Beaufort, the pregnant thirteen-year-old girl who would help found the Tudor dynasty; and the childhood and painful exile of her son, the future Henry VII. It ignores the fact that the Tudors were shaped by their past – those parts they wished to remember and those they wished to forget.
By creating a full family portrait set against the background of this past, Leanda de Lisle enables us to see the Tudors in their own terms, rather than ours; and presents new perspectives and revelations on key figures and events. We see a family dominated by remarkable women doing everything possible to secure its future; understand why the Princes in the Tower were disappeared; look again at the bloodiness of Mary’s reign; at Elizabeth’s relationships with her cousins; and re-discover the true significance of previously overlooked figures. We see the supreme importance of achieving peace and stability in a violent and uncertain world, and of protecting and securing the bloodline.
Tudor tells a family story like no other, and brings it once more to vivid life.
Hardcover: 560 pages
Publisher: Chatto & Windus (29 Aug 2013)
It is available right now at Amazon UK and British bookshops, and the US version (Tudor: Passion. Manipulation. Murder. The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family) is available to pre-order at Amazon.com.