Last week we looked at the Tudor nonfiction books available at the library. While the historical facts are fascinating on their own, the Tudor dynasty and era has also inspired a wealth of historical fiction. Like the nonfiction, this is only a sampling; the library has much more than can be listed here.
A lot of Tudor books revolve around Henry’s wives and the other famous women of the era. The fiction is no exception to this. Philippa Gregory, a historian and novelist, has written books on a variety of women; her books take place during both the War of the Roses, which resulted in Henry VII claiming the throne, and the later Tudor era. Her best known book is arguably The Other Boleyn Girl, which tells the story of Anne and her sister Mary. This book was made into a movie ofthe same name which is also available at the library. Gregory has written about several other queens including Catherine of Aragon in The Constant Princess, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard in The Boleyn Inheritance, and Mary, Queen of Scots in The Other Queen.
Other popular books include Carolly Erickson’s The Favored Queen:a Novel of Henry VIII’s Third Wife, Erickson’s The Unfaithful Queen: a Novel ofHenry VIII’s Fifth Wife and Diane Haeger’s I, Jane. Sandra Byrd’s books on Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr (To Die For and The Secret Keeper) were named Library Journal Best Book Picks for 2011 and 2012. The Grey sisters had their lives fictionalized in Ella March Chase’s Three Maids for a Crown. And Margaret Campbell Barnes tells the story of Henry VIII’s mother in The Tudor Rose: TheStory of the Queen Who United a Kingdom and Birthed a Dynasty.
If you’re not interested in the queens, a great option is Kate Emerson’s Secrets of theTudor Court series. Emerson writes about other courtiers from the period, including Jane Popincourt and Anne Bassett; both women attracted the attentions of Henry VIII at various points in their lives. Another option is Carolly Erickson’s The Queen’s Rival, the story of Henry’s mistress Bessie Blount. During their eight year affair, Bessie bore Henry a son, Henry FitzRoy, the only illegitimate son whom the king acknowledged.
Tudor fiction isn’t limited to just the courtiers. A really interesting book is Margaret Campbell Barnes’ King’s Fool, which looks at all the drama from an unlikely source: Will Sommers, the king’s jester. Will remained at court from 1525 (a few years before Henry VIII annulled his marriage to Catherine of Aragon) until he retired during Elizabeth I’s reign, putting him at the center of the action for four monarchs and all of Henry’s wife drama.
Most of the books I’ve mentioned thus far are historical fiction, which aim to recreate Tudor England for the reader. Recently Tudor alternate history books have popped up, adding a supernatural twist to the historical. A. E. Moorat’s HenryVIII: Wolfman provides a new explanation for why Henry VIII’s reign was rather bloody. And Lucy Weston sheds light on the legacy Anne Boleyn bestows on her daughter in The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer.
If you’d rather watch than read, you’re in luck: Tudor fiction is not limited to just books. The library has both of the Elizabeth movies starring Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth and Elizabeth: the Golden Age) and Elizabeth I starring Helen Mirren. And of course we have all four seasons of the Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
And that concludes this two-week sampling of Tudor books and movies available at the library. From queens to fools, food to drama, you are sure to find something to enjoy!
Apologies to everyone. I accidentally listed Diane Haeger's The Queen’s Rival as a book by Carolly Erickson. Unfortunately, we no longer have a copy of it; if you want to read it, we would be happy to get a copy for you through our interlibrary loan service.
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