England’s Tudor monarchs—Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I—are perhaps the most celebrated and fascinating of all royal families in history. Their love affairs, their political triumphs, and their overturning of the religious order are the subject of countless works of popular scholarship. But for all we know about Henry’s quest for male heirs, or Elizabeth’s purported virginity, the lives of the Tudor monarchs away from the public eye remain largely beyond our grasp, mostly not chronicled by previous historians.
In The Private Lives of the Tudors, acclaimed historian Tracy Borman delves deep behind the public face of the monarchs, showing us what their lives were like beyond the stage of the court. Drawing on original material from those closest to them—courtiers like the “groom of the stool,” a much-coveted position, surprisingly—Borman examines Tudor life in fine detail. What did the monarchs eat? What clothes did they wear, and how were they designed, bought, and cared for? How did they wield power? When sick, how were they treated? What games did they play? How did they practice their faith? And whom did they love, and how did they give birth to the all-important heirs?
Exploring their education, upbringing, sexual lives, and taking us into the kitchens, bathrooms, schoolrooms, and bedrooms at court, The Private Lives of the Tudors charts the course of the entire dynasty, surfacing new and fascinating insights into these celebrated figures.
Borman (Thomas Cromwell), a senior curator of Britain's Historic Royal Palaces organization, eschews the oft-told tabloid tales that emphasize the Tudor family's colorful public personas to focus instead upon their private lives and daily rituals. The larger-than-life personalities and romantic misadventures of the Tudor dynasty, which ruled England from 1485 to 1603, have been thoroughly mined in print and on film; readers hoping for yet another sensationalist and titillating history are going to be disappointed. Borman doesn't do much to further popular understanding of the period, and the amount of detail about the rarefied world that the Tudors inhabited can be overwhelming, but she does unearth some obscure and intriguing tidbits that have been overlooked by other historians. Among the details included here are accounts that Henry VIII so liked the puddings made by the only woman who worked in his kitchens that he bought her a house, and that Elizabeth I liked to wear a perfume that she herself had invented. Though all five Tudor monarchs made even their most private moments into courtly spectacles, including their bathroom customs and childbirth travails, Borman's fine book goes far toward humanizing them. Recommended for serious devotees of the period. Illus.