The best Tudor books 📚

Browse the best books on Tudor as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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

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

By Sarah Gristwood

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.

From the list:

The best books about life in Tudor times

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Book cover of Mistress Cromwell

Mistress Cromwell

By Carol McGrath

Why this book?

Another lesser-known figure, Elizabeth is the wife of Thomas Cromwell. She has very little mention in the historical record but the author draws on what we do know of her husband, Thomas. Elizabeth Cromwell’s character is convincing and likable. I particularly enjoyed glimpsing another side of Thomas Cromwell, a more human side and I loved the descriptions of their imagined daily life together. The author doesn’t over describe but the sights, sounds, and smells of the city are touched on just enough to provide a sense of place. It was also refreshing to see a woman involved in business in…

From the list:

The best books that illustrate life at the Tudor Court

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Book cover of Six Tudor Queens: Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife

Six Tudor Queens: Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife

By Alison Weir

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.

From the list:

The best books about life in Tudor times

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Book cover of Tombland

Tombland

By C.J. Sansom

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.

From the list:

The best books about life in Tudor times

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

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

By Stephen Alford

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.

From the list:

The best books about life in Tudor times

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Book cover of Houses of Power

Houses of Power

By Simon Thurley

Why this book?

A learned, yet eminently readable, book which synthesizes and knits together the findings contained in several of Thurley’s earlier, landmark publications, including The Royal Palaces of Tudor England (Yale, 1993) and Whitehall Palace (Merrell, 2008). Houses of Power is a compact volume (and available in paperback, too). I have often taken my copy with me for reference when visiting the sites described in it. Thurley’s illustrations include fascinating conjectural reconstructions of buildings that either no longer survive or have been greatly altered since Tudor times. A wonderful tool when trying to visualize now-lost buildings.
From the list:

The best books on Tudor art and architecture

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