The Tudors have long captured our imagination. Stories of Henry VIII and his wives, his children and the people who surrounded all of them, have emerged in regular cycles for decades in fiction and non-fiction books, movies, television shows and even theater. These stories have it all: passion, power, betrayal – and for the ultimate stakes. But what about all those other periods and places in history that are ignored despite their equally high-stakes passion, power and betrayal (Borgias, I’m thinking of you despite Showtime’s attempt to create a fan base…)? What gives the Tudors their enduring popularity?
I ask because I have been obsessed for forty years, reading every book I could about the period – at least until they included information that was patently incorrect. I started out captivated by Anne Boleyn and her relationship with Henry. This sparked an interest in the other wives and in Elizabeth, and from there I cycled pretty quickly through the entire cast of characters. Essentially all the Tudor stories are indelibly intertwined, perhaps that is the secret to how they draw people in. I can’t stop, but I also can’t tell you why.
For now, through a twist of fate, I have chosen to live and breathe the Seymours. Not only Jane – she’s just the first book – but also her brother Edward, whose rise to power after her death is best viewed as a counterpoint to Henry’s marital experiences, and her son, who was forced to execute both of his uncles during his brief time as king. I find their stories among the most compelling of the period – and yet they were nowhere on my list of favorites when my attraction to the era was born. Similarly, I have read posts (I am a member of the Tudor History Lovers’ group on Goodreads) where people declare their fascination for people like Bessie Blount or Elizabeth Gray – certainly not the first characters they would have encountered on their journeys.
So I’m asking – who is your favorite Tudor-era character and how did you get to them?