Friday, July 04, 2008

Question from Kat - Looking for book recommendations

Thanks to all who left a comment to my questions of the Tudor's burial sites! I have read David Starkey's book on the "Six Wives of Henry" and Allison Weir's book on "Elizabeth" and find them facinating. I have even found a book on Catherin of Aragon's parents with a little of her earlier history (before Henry VIII)that was very facinating. However, I find it hard to find other good books on any of the other Tudor wives, siblings, etc. Can anyone give me the name of excellent books that cover other family members. I would really appreciate the help!


  1. On the wives of Henry VIII, other than Katherine of Aragon, you cannot do better than starting with Eric Ives' "Anne Boleyn." On Jane Seymour, see Pamela Gross, "Jane, the Quene, Third Consort of King Henry VIII." Susan James recently re-published her outstanding biography of Katherine Parr under the new title "Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's Last Love." The only book-length bio of Anne of Cleves that I am aware of is Mary Saaler's "Anne of Cleves," though I have not read it and thus cannot comment on its value. Unfortunately, no bio of Katherine Howard has yet been written.
    On Henry VIII's children, see Carrolly Erickson's "Bloody Mary" or David Loades' "Mary Tudor: A Life." Jennifer Loach's "Edward VI" offers a more readable alternative to the earlier massive two-volume study by W.K. Jordan under the same title. There is also a good new book available on Henry VIII's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond. See "The Bastard Prince" by Beverly Murphy. There are too many books on Elizabeth too choose from. My list covers the wives and children of Henry VIII. For other Tudor figures, do a name search on the Royal Historical Society's free online Bibliography of British and Irish History.

  2. Actually, there are two biographies of Katherine Howard. The first is "A Tudor tragedy, The Life and Times of Katherine Howard" by Lacey Baldwin Smith. Joanna Denny has also published a bio, called simply "Katherine Howard". Neither is of the calibre of Ives's bio of Anne Boleyn, which is the best and most complete you will ever read.
    For Katherine of Aragon, the standard is still Garrett Mattingly's bio, written in the early 1940s.
    Also from that era is HFM Prescott's bio of Mary Tudor, entitled "The Spanish Tudor".
    Linda Porter has also written a decent bio of Mary Tudor, and has a new book coming out in a few days which is supposed to address some of the common myths about "Bloody Mary".

  3. Apologies, but I had forgotten about Lacey Baldwin Smith's "Tudor Tragedy" (1961).

    Joanna Denny is principally a novelist, not a historian. Her book about Katherine Howard, published just recently in paperback, is historical fiction, not legitimate biography.

  4. I have just purchased a used copy of Anthony Martiennsen's bio of Katherine Parr, but have not read it yet--currently reading Alison Weir's book on Queen Isabella. Does anyone have an opinion about Martiennsen's work on Katherine Parr?
    As for Joanna Denny--I have both her works, on Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard--as Phd Historian says, they are the work of a novelist. The reader gets the basic flavor of the subject's life and the basic facts, but they serve merely as an appetizer for far more satisfying works. I guess you would say they are more for the armchair casual reader, and not serious students of the subject. I have them merely as additions to my library. I have at least half a dozen different bios of Anne Boleyn alone, Baldwin Smith's bio of Katherine Howard, to name only a few, and many more. It is fun to see how different writers treat the same subject.

  5. First off...let me say that I am having an awful time getting an identity through Google so I don't have to appear as anonymous all the time. Any suggestions?

    Secondly...and back to the topic...

    I have read Mary Saaler's "Anne of Cleves" and DO NOT RECOMMEND it. It was astonishing to read that Catherine of Aragon approved of her divorce!

    The life of Ms. Cleves was relatively unknown to me, except for historical fiction. However, Ms Aragon was a beloved 'character' and her life story was known front to back.

    Yes, the bio could have suffered a typo...and, who knows...maybe that misprint been fixed as it has been over 10 years since this book was read. Still, reading that Catherine wasn't adverse to being put aside made me read the rest of Anne's story with a HUGE grain of salt.

    phd historian...what is your opinion of Carolly Erickson? Is she a historian or more of a novelist. I did try to read her work on Anne Boleyn...and all I can say is that I'm happy the book was purchased at a bargain price.

  6. To 'anonymous' having Google difficulties - email me directly and I'll see if I can help you:

  7. These two books came to mind: Retha Warnicke has a book called The Marrying of Anne of Cleves, though I havent read it. Maria Perry wrote an accessible book on Henry VIII's sisters, who have fascinating but sadly neglected stories.

  8. I felt that Maria Perry's book dwelled too much on Mary and Margaret's brother. The two sisters were fascinating people in their own right, so it was very disappointing that their story was overshadowed by Henry.

    I've an error to correct for phd historian in reference to the book by Erickson about Anne Boleyn. It was Denny's book which made me happy the purchase was on the bargain side.

  9. Anonymous: Carolly Erickson is a rare (if not unique) example of a well respected academic historian who moved from writing high-quality history to writing novels. She has a PhD in European History from Columbia University (1969), one of the top 5 history PhD programs in the country. She later taught history at the University of Hawaii for several years. Her first couple of books were large cross-over successes, doing well in both the academic and trade (for the general public) markets. University teaching being consistently unrewarding financially, she seems to have shifted in later years to writing solely for the trade or general public market and even to have branched into novel writing. Nonetheless, her early works, especially her biographies of Henry VIII, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth, and Russia's Catherine the Great, are all quite respectable as "legitimate" academic history that is also entirely readable for a general public. (Too much academic history is so badly written that only an advanced trained specialist can understand it, a situation that I believe renders that type of historical writing irrelevant. What use is "history" if the educated general public cannot read it?)

  10. I highly recommend David Loades’s work on Mary Tudor (Mary I of England) – in particular the 1992 edition of his biography on her. The biography is entitled "Mary Tudor: A Life". There is also a new biography on Mary by Linda Porter which is an interesting read, although on the whole I prefer Loades’s work.

    Whilst I don’t agree with the controversial primary theory promoted in her book, I still recommend Retha Warnicke’s biography on Anne Boleyn as it provides an interesting different take on Anne’s downfall. Controversial and well researched yet admittedly I recommend Eric Ives’s work on Anne before any other on that subject. Ives’s biography on Anne is just superb and is one of my favourite biographies. Warnicke’s work on Anne of Cleves is again well researched and provides an examination of an area and a figure which are traditionally overlooked. A previous poster mentioned Jennifer Loach’s work on Edward VI and I completely agree; it is a superb biography by the late remarkable historian.

  11. I am reading and enjoying "Anne Boleyn" by Marie Louise Bruce, first published in 1972. Has anyone else read this illustrated biography?

  12. I recommend a book also by Alison Weir called The Six Wives of Henry VIII. It is a very detailed book.

  13. I'm very fond of Marie Louise Bruce's biography -- it's well researched and is a nearly perfect state-of-the-art snapshot of what was known about Anne Boleyn in 1972. It's built on primary sources and solid secondary sources, like Paul Friedmann's 2-volume "Anne Boleyn," published in 1884 and indispensable for nearly a century, the Ives of his time.

    If you're interested in Anne Boleyn, it's fascinating to read Friedmann, then Bruce, then Ives and Warnicke to see how the information has been reinterpreted over the last hundred years.

  14. "The Wives of Henry VIII" written by Antonia Fraser is a fascinating book. Ms. Fraser tells the stories of six extraordinary women in English history. She is well respected and her works are well researched.
    I also have read Carrolly Erickson's "Bloody Mary" as recommended by phd historian. It is an excellent choice if you are interested in reading about the life of Mary I.


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