The best history books about the Tudors that really grab you

Who am I?

I’m a blogger, vlogger, historian, and author of 14 history books, and have a true passion for Tudor history. Tudor history grabbed me at the age of 11, when I had to do a project on Henry VIII and his six wives, and has never let me go. Anne Boleyn is my historical heroine and area of expertise, but I love anything to do with the Tudors. I’m a complete Tudor nut and if I’m not researching and writing about Tudor history, I’m talking about it or getting lost in a good book about it. I love any book that brings my favourite character to life or transports me back to the 16th century. 

I wrote...

The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown

By Claire Ridgway,

Book cover of The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown

What is my book about?

During the spring of 1536 in Tudor England, events conspire to bring down Anne Boleyn, the Queen of England. The coup against the Queen results in the brutal executions of six innocent people – Anne Boleyn herself, her brother, and four courtiers – and the rise of a new Queen.

Drawing on sixteenth-century letters, eyewitness accounts, and chronicles, Claire Ridgway leads the reader through the sequence of chilling events one day at a time, telling the true story of Anne Boleyn’s fall.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England

Why did I love this book?

This is my all-time favourite history book. It’s non-fiction, but is far from dry or academic, it grabs you from the get-go and is like a thriller, a real page-turner.

We all know about the religious persecutions of Mary I’s reign, a queen who has gone down in history as Bloody Mary, but in God’s Traitors, historian Jessie Childs explores just how dangerous it was being a Catholic in Elizabethan England.

Childs focuses on the Vaux family and their experiences of being Catholic as Elizabeth I swings from religious tolerance to viewing Catholics as the enemy.

It’s a fantastic read.

By Jessie Childs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked God's Traitors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Winner of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize*
*Longlisted for The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction*
*A Sunday Times Book of the Year*
*A Daily Telegraph Book of the Year*
*A Times Book of the Year*
*An Observer Book of the Year*

A woman awakes in a prison cell.

She has been on the run but the authorities have tracked her down and taken her to the Tower of London - where she is interrogated about the Gunpowder Plot.

The woman is Anne Vaux - one of the ardent, brave and exasperating members of the aristocratic Vauxes of Harrowden Hall.

Through the…

Book cover of Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII

Why did I love this book?

Gareth Russell can do no wrong in my eyes! He brings history to life with storytelling that many novelists could only hope to emulate. Not only that, his books are based on meticulous research

In Young and Damned and Fair Russell tells the story of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s ill-fated wife, and what I love about Russell’s narrative is the way it brings Catherine to life. Here, she’s not the wayward ‘tart’ who betrayed Henry VIII, or the victim of sexual abuse, she’s fully three-dimensional and all facets of her life are explored.

I particularly loved Russell’s examination of her queenship, which is so often neglected. A riveting read!

By Gareth Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Young and Damned and Fair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


During one of the hottest summers on record the court of Henry VIII is embroiled, once again, in political scandal. The King's marriage to Anne of Cleves has failed, his closest adviser Thomas Cromwell is to be executed for treason and, in the countryside, an aristocratic teenager named Catherine Howard prepares to become fifth wife to the increasingly irascible, unpredictable monarch.

Her story is both a very dark fairy tale and a gripping thriller. Born into nobility and married into the royal family, Catherine was attended every waking hour by…

Book cover of The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey

Why did I love this book?

We’ve all heard of Lady Jane Grey, "The Nine Day Queen”, but not many know that all three Grey sisters had tragic lives. Their Tudor blood and proximity to the throne made them rivals to the monarch, whether they wanted to be or not.

Leanda de Lisle does a wonderful job telling the stories of these three fascinating women: Jane, Katherine, and Mary. I love how she banishes the many myths surrounding them. Jane may have been a victim of the executioner, but the Jane that rises from the pages of this book was one tough cookie, as were her sisters.

All three of them challenged authority and were willing to pay the price. An excellent read.

By Leanda de Lisle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sisters Who Would Be Queen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

`Leanda de Lisle brings the story of nine days' queen, Lady Jane Grey and her forgotten sisters, the rivals of Elizabeth I, to vivid life in her fascinating biography' Philippa Gregory

The dramatic untold story of the three tragic Grey sisters, all heirs to the Tudor throne, all victims to their royal blood.

Lady Jane Grey is an iconic figure in English history. Misremembered as the `Nine Days Queen', she has been mythologized as a child-woman destroyed on the altar of political expediency. Behind the legend, however, was an opinionated and often rebellious adolescent who died a passionate leader, not…

Book cover of Virgin and the Crab: Sketches, Fables and Mysteries from the Early Life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor

Why did I love this book?

As a historian, I’m rather fussy about the historical fiction I read, and often avoid Tudor fiction as I get annoyed with inaccuracies, but I hand-on-heart loved Virgin and the Crab.

It’s such a beautiful story and I found it “unputdownable”, if that’s a word! Parry has blended historical facts with fiction to produce an incredibly believable story featuring Elizabeth Tudor, the future Elizabeth I, and the famous scholar John Dee, who acts as her mentor and friend, helping Elizabeth navigate the dangers of her half-sister’s reign.

It’s a story of true friendship, courage, magic, love and loyalty, and ultimately victory. A compelling read and one that made me want to know far more about the fascinating John Dee.

By Robert Parry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Virgin and the Crab as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

12 Years, 2 Kings, 3 Queens - The Ultimate Tudor Novel
England 1550s. The brilliant young mathematician and astronomer John Dee has one overwhelming obsession: liberty. Abandoned and in danger, Elizabeth Tudor has one simple aim: survival. This is their story.Against the background of the English Reformation, and threatened by a vengeful and unforgiving queen, the mysterious brotherhood of the Rose Lodge attempts to guide the nation towards enlightenment and stability.
Here, the special alchemy of the Virgin and the Crab works its magic, growing from childhood friendship, through adolescent flirtation to mutual respect and admiration as together they prepare…


By C.J. Sansom,

Book cover of Dissolution

Why did I love this book?

Ever since I was a child, I’ve adored murder-mysteries and thrillers, growing up on a diet of Agatha Christies and Dorothy L Sayers, so I was delighted when I picked up a copy of C J Sansom’s Dissolution, which is the first book in the Shardlake series. 

Dissolution is set in 1537, just after Henry VIII had made himself supreme head of the church in England and begun his dissolution of the monasteries – turbulent times. One of king’s commissioners is murdered during a visit to a monastery and lawyer Matthew Shardlake is tasked with investigating the murder.

I won’t spoil it by saying any more, but what I loved most about this novel, and the rest of the series, is that C J Sansom manages to transport the reader back to the 16th century. You can almost smell the streets of London as Shardlake goes about his business, and you can see through his eyes. You are there with him. Wonderful!

By C.J. Sansom,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Dissolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger - the highest honor in British crime writing

From the bestselling author of Winter in Madrid and Dominion comes the exciting and elegantly written first novel in the Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery series

Dissolution is an utterly riveting portrayal of Tudor England. The year is 1537, and the country is divided between those faithful to the Catholic Church and those loyal to the king and the newly established Church of England. When a royal commissioner is brutally murdered in a monastery on the south coast of England, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's feared vicar general, summons…

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