Backstory or Essential Tidbit? Help Me Decide!


This week, my editor finished critiquing my manuscript, Jane the Quene. As I read through her comments, I noticed that there were several passages she suggested I cut because they slowed the pacing…all backstory details that don’t need to be there but that give a fuller picture of the people and the times.  Let me say, I agree with the pacing argument – but some of these morsels seem essential to slip in elsewhere (in a way that is less distracting than I was apparently being). Of course, I realize I may be wrong about how important this information would be to other Tudor fans – so will you please help me out? Let me know which of these snippets would be most significant (or least significant) to you and I’ll figure out a way to make them work somewhere else (or cut them with fewer qualms). And thank you!

  • Perhaps as an outgrowth of his fear of death and disease, Henry was fascinated with herbs. He made his own remedies, both for himself and for friends, and even took his tools on progress with him. (I have to say, this is the one I care about most – I already know where it would really work).
  • Edward Seymour’s father seduced Edward’s first wife – then went slightly mad from guilt.
  • Henry’s boyhood household included Nicholas Carew, Charles Brandon, William Compton…and Henry Norris.
  • Even Sir Thomas More had recognized that vice existed in the monasteries and advocated that some houses be closed. (This is the one most likely to be simply cut, except that I love the background that prompted More’s condemnation: a prior of a religious house had hired a band of cutthroats to commit murder for him, then as a nod to his position, he made them pray with him in his cell before they left to do the deed).

Why Do We Love the Tudors?

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?