Smart and sexy, in depth and detailed; those are just a few words I would use to describe G. J. Meyer’s The Tudors, the complete story of England’s most notorious dynasty.
I started off thinking I knew quite a bit about the infamous Tudors — most specifically, Henry VIII. Imagine my surprise upon discovering this wonderful book about the entire Tudor dynasty, starting with Henry Tudor, a quiet and studious man whose claim upon the throne of England was about as weak as any. Nonetheless, after a quick battle with Richard III, king of England, Henry VII suddenly found himself king of a small but growing nation.
Meyer’s portrayal of the Tudors is not flattering; indeed, most of the Tudor dynasty’s triumphs the author portrays throughout the book are vastly overshadowed by the amount of atrocities and dark deeds that led to those triumphs. The majority of the book revolves around the life and times of the most notorious of England’s many kings: Henry VIII. Unfair or not, this polarizing figure of English history, through barbaric acts and a somewhat innocent idealism, ensured that the dynasty of his father would live on throughout history.
However, Henry VIII is only part of the story, a part of the grand tapestry that Meyer weaves easily in a narrative voice that keeps the reader interested and involved. The historical notes are spot-on, and Meyer’s admits when a few suppositions are just that, a drastic change of pace from some historians who assert that their guesses are genuinely accurate and not just that.
This book actually inspired me to go out and pick up another book, one about Edward VI, the ill-fated reformer son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife. I was fascinated by Meyer’s painting of Edward, though, including the delicate dance that his two older sister must do around him, specifically Mary, Henry’s daughter with Catherine of Aragon, a devout Catholic who is at opposite ends of her Reformist younger sibling. Because the Reformation, originally derided by Henry VIII but later it’s unofficial champion with his fourth marriage, to Anne of Cleaves, a member of the powerful Reformer clans of Europe.
Of course, it’s Henry and history, so you know it didn’t take long for that to end…
I loved this book and the history it brought back to life. The Tudor dynasty will forever remain one of the most enigmatic families of all time, and the author does a fantastic job of bringing them back to life. A definite must-have book for the history buff in us all.
–Reviewed by Jason