The best books by Tudor historians

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author, researcher, and historian writing about Tudor women. As a woman myself, I’m naturally interested in what life was like for those who came before me, and I’m very passionate about writing the lesser-known, forgotten women back into the historical narrative of the period. We all know about Henry VIII’s six wives, his sisters, and daughters, but there were other women at the Tudor court whose stories are no less fascinating.


I wrote...

Ladies-in-Waiting: Women Who Served Anne Boleyn

By Sylvia Barbara Soberton,

Book cover of Ladies-in-Waiting: Women Who Served Anne Boleyn

What is my book about?

The aspects of Anne Boleyn’s life and death are fiercely debated by historians, yet her ladies-in-waiting remain an understudied topic. Much emphasis is usually put on Anne’s relationships with the men in her life: her suitors, her royal husband, her father and brother, and her putative lovers who were executed on 17 May 1536. By concentrating on a previously neglected area of Anne Boleyn’s female household, this book seeks to identify the women who served Anne and investigate what roles ladies-in-waiting played in this Queen’s household.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen

Sylvia Barbara Soberton Why did I love this book?

I love everything by Elizabeth Norton, but this book is one of my all-time favourites.

It tells the story of Elizabeth I’s life before she became queen; the spotlight is on her short stay in the household of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour. Fast-paced and evocative, it reads like a thriller.

It’s a narrative based on primary source material, printed and archival, describing the events between Henry VIII’s death in January 1547 and Thomas Seymour’s execution in March 1549.

This book is a lesson in how to create an immersive historical narrative while staying true to the primary sources. An inspiration.

By Elizabeth Norton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

England, late 1547. King Henry VIII Is dead. His fourteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth is living with the king's widow, Catherine Parr, and her new husband, Thomas Seymour. Seymour is the brother of Henry VIII's third wife, the late Jane Seymour, who was the mother to the now-ailing boy King. Ambitious and dangerous, Seymour begins and overt flirtation with Elizabeth that ends with Catherine sending her away. When Catherine dies a year later and Seymour is arrested for treason soon after, a scandal explodes. Alone and in dreadful danger, Elizabeth is threatened by supporters of her half-sister, Mary, who wishes to see…


Book cover of The Voices of Nimes: Women, Sex, and Marriage in Reformation Languedoc

Sylvia Barbara Soberton Why did I love this book?

In historiography, the focus is usually on men, so women are pushed to the sidelines.

In this book, Professor Lipscomb beautifully recreates women's daily life in the sixteenth-century French town of Nîmes. Reading their words retrieved from the archives allows these women's voices, left out of history books, to be heard again.

By Suzannah Lipscomb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Voices of Nimes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Most of the women who ever lived left no trace of their existence on the record of history. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century women of the middling and lower levels of society left no letters or diaries in which they expressed what they felt or thought. Criminal courts and magistrates kept few records of their testimonies, and no ecclesiastical court records are known to survive for the French Roman Catholic Church between 1540 and 1667. For the most part, we cannot
hear the voices of ordinary French women - but this study allows us to do so.

Based on the evidence of…


Book cover of Woodsmoke and Sage: The Five Senses 1485-1603: How the Tudors Experienced the World

Sylvia Barbara Soberton Why did I love this book?

What did Tudor England look, sound, or smell like?

This is an innovative work from Amy Licence, historian of women's lives. Using the five senses, she skilfully plunges readers into sixteenth-century England, letting us see, hear, smell, taste, and (almost) touch the Tudor world like we've never experienced it before.

By Amy Licence,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Woodsmoke and Sage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Traditionally history is cerebral: what did they believe, what did they think, what did they know?

Woodsmoke and Sage is not a traditional book.

Using the five senses, historian Amy Licence presents a new perspective on the material culture of the past, exploring the Tudors' relationship with the fabric of their existence, from the clothes on their backs, the roofs over their heads and the food on their tables, to the wider questions of how they interpreted and presented themselves, and what they believed about life, death and beyond. Take a journey back 500 years and experience the sixteenth century…


Book cover of All the Queen's Jewels, 1445-1548: Power, Majesty and Display

Sylvia Barbara Soberton Why did I love this book?

This book analyses how queens consort, from Margaret of Anjou to Katherine Parr, used jewels to highlight their status, project majesty and enhance their networks through exchanging jewels as gifts.

Jewels were not only pretty trinkets but objects laden with political and dynastic symbolism. It’s a valuable addition to the library of Tudor historians and enthusiasts alike.

By Nicola Tallis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All the Queen's Jewels, 1445-1548 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A different take on a popular topic, this book uncovers the exciting history of the jewels and jewellery worn and used by the later medieval and Tudor Queens of England from Margaret of Anjou to Katherine Parr. Enabling general readers to see how jewellery was used by Queens to assert their power and influence in their husband's courts.

Dr Tallis is an experienced writer of non-fiction to a public audience; this book is accessibly written for an educated popular audience and undergraduate students.

Explores the lives of ten queen consorts across 100 years, providing students and general readers alike with…


Book cover of After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England

Sylvia Barbara Soberton Why did I love this book?

When Elizabeth I died, she was succeeded by her Scottish cousin James VI, who became James I of England.

However, the events before and after Elizabeth’s death make it clear that it was not as smooth a transition of power as many believe. It was a period of tension, thick with succession plots and intrigues.

This book is a reminder that we should never look back on history through the prism of hindsight. James I inherited Elizabeth’s throne, but it almost didn’t happen; Leanda de Lisle masterfully recreates the atmosphere of intrigue, fear, and courtly factionalism.

By Leanda de Lisle,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked After Elizabeth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many volumes have been written about the long reign of Elizabeth I. Now, for the first time, comes a brilliant new work that focuses on the critical year her reign ended, a time in which England lost its childless queen and a Machiavellian struggle ensued to find her successor.

December 1602. After forty-four years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth is in decline. The formidable ruler whose motto is Semper eadem (I never change) has become a dithering old woman, missing teeth and wearing makeup half an inch thick. The kingdom has been weakened by the cost of war with Spain…


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I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

Book cover of I Meant to Tell You

Fran Hawthorne Author Of I Meant to Tell You

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Museum guide Foreign language student Runner Community activist Former health-care journalist

Fran's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not a criminal, she stumbles into other secrets that will challenge what she thought she knew about her own family, her friend, Russ—and herself.

I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

What is this book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not…


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Interested in queens, 16th century, and France?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about queens, 16th century, and France.

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