The best books about life in Tudor times

The Books I Picked & Why

Six Tudor Queens: Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife

By Alison Weir

Six Tudor Queens: Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife

Why this book?

The last in this stunning Six Wives series, this novel brings Henry VIII’s last wife to life as never before. Impeccably researched and with stunning period detail, this book paints a vivid picture of how women had to battle for survival in the Tudor world.


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Tombland

By C J Sansom

Tombland

Why this book?

I am a huge fan of the Shardlake novels and this latest instalment is one of the most compelling. What sets Sansom’s books apart from other historical novels is the colossal amount of research he undertakes for each one. The protagonist is far from being an archetypal hero but is brilliantly drawn and you find yourself rooting for him from the first page to the last.


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Bring Up the Bodies

By Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies

Why this book?

My non-fiction biography of Thomas Cromwell was inspired by Hilary Mantel’s stunning Wolf Hall trilogy. She transformed Henry VIII’s henchman from one of the most despised villains in history into a sympathetic hero: a self-confessed ‘ruffian’ who rose to become the most powerful man in England, next to his royal master, Henry VIII. This, the second book in the trilogy, is for me the most compelling and charts the seemingly inexorable rise and shocking fall of Anne Boleyn.


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The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I

By Stephen Alford

The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I

Why this book?

Although Elizabeth I has gone down in history as the iconic ‘Gloriana’, the longest-reigning and arguably most successful monarch from the Tudor dynasty, as queen she never enjoyed the luxury of feeling secure on her throne. This brilliant non-fiction book explores the many plots that swirled around the Virgin Queen’s throne – and the intricate spy network that helped thwart them all.


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Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

By Sarah Gristwood

Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

Why this book?

There is no doubt that the sixteenth century was a man’s world. Women were treated as second-class citizens and viewed as inferior in every single respect: mentally, physically and emotionally. Yet it was also the era of powerful female sovereigns, consorts and regents. Sarah Gristwood’s beautifully written and well-researched study follows the varying fortunes of some of the period’s most formidable matriarchs, from Isabella of Castile to the six wives of Henry VIII.


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