12 Books To Read If You Are OBSESSED With Tudor History

As a descendant of Owen Tudor and the Tudor Dynasty of England, family drama kind of runs in the blood.  My ancient family’s drama has been so tantalizing juicy that it still captivates and demands attention 500 years after these events have played out.  

As a lover of all things history, especially in Tudor England, I am blessed with the fact that so many people are also obsessed with Tudor drama.  So much so, that this obsession has given us countless books, movies, and tv shows that feed us entertainment about Britain’s most iconic and infamous dysfunctional dynasty.

Whether you love Tudor history for the drama, the romance, or the scandals (or a combination of all three), here is a list of 12 books you definitely need to read if you are as OBSESSED with Tudor history as I am.

1. The Prince and The Pauper by Mark Twain

The Prince and The Pauper by Mark Twain

The Disney-fied version of the classic Prince and The Pauper by Mark Twain was my first introduction to Tudor history at the tender age of four years old. I had the little short Disney book retelling the classic story of Prince Edward (The Prince) swapping places with his pauper doppelgänger (Tom Canty/Mickey).

The Prince and The Pauper by Mark Twain

Even though I have read the original story by Mark Twain time and again, but a part of me still prefers the Disney version.  For nostalgia’s sake.

2. Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies by Hayley Nolan

Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies by Hayley Nolan

If you have Audible, I can’t recommend this book enough.  You’re in for a real treat.  The book is read by the author, Hayley Nolan, and she has a real knack for storytelling.  She puts so much emotion in her own words, which you would be deprived of if you read the novel yourself.  

Nolan, a fierce defender of Anne Boleyn, would have made an excellent defense attorney for the condemned queen (if Anne would have been allowed one) as she dispels the myths and lies that have accumulated about and around Anne Boleyn over the course of the past 500 years.

3. The English Reformation: Religion, Politics, and Fear - How England was Transformed by the Tudors by Derek Wilson

The English Reformation: Religion, Politics, and Fear

The English Reformation is probably the most important event of the Tudor era.  The English Reformation began with the Protestant reformer Martin Luther roughly in 1509 and took off with King Henry VIII’s blasphemous break from Rome and the Catholic Church that has helped shape England into what it is today.

In his book, Wilson retells how four of the main Tudor Monarchs (Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I) took the reformation into their own hands to build their nation to how God and Crown would see hit.

The change brought from the reformation was more political than religious as each head that wore the crown made its own deep impact on English identity and the relationships it had with their vastly Catholic European neighbors.

4. Winter King: Henry VII and The Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn

Winter King: Henry VII and The Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn

Author Thomas Penn won the 2012 H.W. Fisher Best First Biography prize with Winter King.  Henry VII is often overshadowed in history by his second son, Henry VIII, and granddaughter, Elizabeth I.  If you have ever wanted to read about the man that made the Tudors, look no further than this book. 

With an obscure claim to the throne, Henry Tudor would become Henry VII, first Tudor King of England by winning the Battle of Bosworth from Richard III.  His marriage to Elizabeth of York bound the feuding ruling families, the Lancasters, and Yorks, and thus ended the War of the Roses.  Penn paints a picture of a man who went from proud triumph to bitter paranoia.

5. Dark History of the Tudors by Judith John

Daedalus Books

One of the reasons why the Tudor Dynasty is most infamous in English history is because of how bloody it was.  This is bloodlust is no surprise when the most famous king from this era, and ultimately in English history, moved heaven and earth to marry his lover only to have her head lopped off just three years later.

Judith John is a firm believer in the phrase “a picture’s worth a thousand words” as this novel is full of pictures on every page.  Some details in history cannot be eloquently explained by words.  This book brings those words unsaid to life as it takes us through the dark reigns of Henry VII all the way through Elizabeth I.

6. The Private Lives of the Tudors by Tracy Borman

The Private Lives of the Tudors by Tracy Borman

Tracy Borman takes us down the path mostly forgotten by most Tudor historians.  We may know that Henry VIII had six wives, Edward was the boy king, Mary was “Bloody Mary”, and Elizabeth was “The Virgin Queen”, but how they became the figures history would know them as is often left in the dark.

This book offers a ravaging insight into the private lives of the Tudors and gives us that fly-on-the-wall perspective of Tudor court that didn’t make the cut into the history books.

I love this book because I love behind-the-scenes details, especially about practically ancient and major topics.  Henry VIII didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I feel like killing my wife today”.  There is so much left out of mainstream history that skims over the line between Point A to Point B.  This book shares those details that ultimately played a part in changing the world as we know it.

7. The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women by Elizabeth Norton

The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women by Elizabeth Norton

I especially love this book by Elizabeth Norton.  As a woman, I find it fascinating who women throughout history, without the aid of feminine hygiene products and Midol, simply made it.  This book not only answers that question but does so from the perspective of my favorite English era.

Unlike the previous book on this list, this book goes specifically into the lives of women, in general, living in the Tudor era.  Not just Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth I, this book includes all women from ladies maid to peasant women. The latter I find particularly fascinating because there is next to nothing about the details of the hidden lives of peasants, much less of peasant women

8. The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser

I love anything by Antonia Fraser because of her fantastic works in historical biographical writings. 

The first sentence of the prologue is the rhyme all Tudor lovers know, “Divorced, beheaded, died...divorced, beheaded, survived”.  Thus begins the tales of King Henry VIII’s six wives.  But they were more than just his wives.  They were people with their own personalities and dreams, and hopes of what they wanted to achieve with and for their crowns.

This book paints the portraits of six women, some born into greatness, some achieved greatness, and some had greatness thrust upon them.  All under the cloak of one of the infamous men in the world.

9. The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

This book is a more humorous twist on the whole idea of what the private lives of the Tudor Era might entail. Mortimer wrote his novel as a travel guide to a time-traveling tourist and takes the reader through the homes and lives from the ordinary citizen to those who made their stamp in history; such as Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Francis Drake.

Mortimer includes all the details on what a would-be time traveler might expect in Tudor England; from all of the sounds to horrid smells to experiencing the contradictory attitudes between violence, sex, and religion from those living in Tudor England.

10. Medical Downfall of the Tudors: Sex, Reproduction, and Succession by Sylvia Barbara Soberton

Medical Downfall of the Tudors: Sex, Reproduction, and Succession by Sylvia Barbara Soberton

Why was Katherine of Aragon only able to have one child make it to adulthood?  Did Henry VIII have a venereal disease?  Why did Edward VI die so young?  Why did Mary I have two phantom pregnancies?

If only the Tudors had access to modern medicine, then the world would certainly be a different place.  Sylvia Barbara Soberton puts the Tudors under the microscope to examine their medical records in an attempt to answer some of the burning questions regarding the health of the Tudors.

11. The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir

The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir

Acclaimed author Alison Weir takes us through the climax of the four months that ended with the death of Anne Boleyn.  It is nothing but the cruel irony that Anne Boleyn would be taken to the Tower of London as a prisoner, where she would be put to death for crimes she didn’t and couldn’t have committed; three years after she was taken there the night before she would e]be crowned as Queen of England. 

The life and death of Anne Boleyn captivated the minds of untold numbers of historians and enthusiasts for five centuries after Anne Boleyn walked and breathed on this earth.  How was it possible for such a fall from grace to happen in such a short period of time? 

Could Anne have had a hand in her own undoing?

12. Six Tudor Queens Series by Alison Weir

Six Tudor Queens Series by Alison Weir

This is a bit different from the rest of the recommendations on the rest of this list.  Instead of just one book, I recommend the whole Six Tudor Queens series by the incredible author Alison Weir.

The Six Tudor Queens series is a fictional account from each of Henry VIII’s six queens; from Katherine of Aragon to Katherine Parr. 

I don’t normally like historical fiction when I can help it. But this series adds so much to the stories of the six queens that we will never know about.  It gives these women their humanity, which is glossed over by the pages of history when they are portrayed as “#_ wife of Henry VIII”.  They were more than just wives. They were daughters, sisters, and queens!

Hi! My name is Kathlyn and I love travel, history, foodies, and all things paranormal.

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