The best historical fiction books about the Tudors

The Books I Picked & Why

Dissolution: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery

By C. J. Sansom

Dissolution: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery

Why this book?

This book inspired me to write about the Tudors in a new way, exploring what it was really like to live in Tudor times. Dissolution is a fascinating detective story, which paints a convincing portrait of one of the most turbulent periods in British history. It is also the first in an award-winning series, which follows the hunch-backed lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, as he solves medieval mysteries with his loyal companions. 


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Wolf Hall

By Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall

Why this book?

Hilary Mantel taught me how to find the ‘voice’ of Tudor characters and how it is possible to put the flesh on the bones and bring real people from medieval history to life. Booker Prize winning Hilary Mantel makes us think again about Henry VIII’s henchman, Thomas Cromwell. We see the world through Thomas’ eyes, and know what he knows, but we also hear him asking questions of himself as he changes the course of history.


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Mistress Cromwell (The Woman in the Shadows)

By Carol McGrath

Mistress Cromwell (The Woman in the Shadows)

Why this book?

This inspired book is told from Elizabeth Cromwell’s point of view. Written in the first person, this touching and evocative account makes impressive use of the known facts of Elizabeth’s life.

In an inspired break from the conventional timeline, we dip into the past for entire chapters. It reminded me of watching a skilled portrait artist at work, with increasing detail over broader brushwork until the result is three-dimensional. 


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The Falcon's Flight: A novel of Anne Boleyn

By Natalia Richards

The Falcon's Flight: A novel of Anne Boleyn

Why this book?

Evocative and atmospheric, the second book in Natalia Richards' series on the life of Anne Boleyn covers her time in France. Often skimmed over by historians, understandably keen to move on to the tragedy of Anne's later life, this immersive, first-person narrative places the reader firmly in Anne's shoes. I particularly enjoyed Natalia's description of the sights (and smells) of medieval Paris, and to find myself at The Field of Cloth of Gold, where King Henry VIII met King François I of France.


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The Beaufort Bride: The Life of Margaret Beaufort, Mother of the Tudor Dynasty (The Beaufort Chronicles)

By Judith Arnopp

The Beaufort Bride: The Life of Margaret Beaufort, Mother of the Tudor Dynasty (The Beaufort Chronicles)

Why this book?

The first book in Judith Arnopp’s Beaufort Chronicles tells the story of Margaret Beaufort’s challenging early life. Often portrayed as cold and stringent, we discover a woman who is warm, and endearing, her reserve a front which masks a deeply emotional person of great sensitivity and intelligence. This book made me think again about Margaret Beaufort. Well researched with beautiful period details, and excellent storytelling.


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