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As an unabashed lover of British royalty, I've read over 100 books on monarchs from William The Conqueror to Edward VIII (the family gets boring after that). For me, the Tudors have always been embodied by a twitchy but regal Bette Davis as Elizabeth I and the fat-boy Holbein painting of Henry VIII. But this book gives all 6 Tudors their due, in one of the most indepth accounts ever. The media has sold us on largely fictional and/or subjective views of Tudor monarchs, Henry and Elizabeth, while basically ignoring Henry VII, and Mary I, Jane Grey, and Edward VI. However, this author sets the record straight. He tells each monarch's life from beginning to end, rather than as merely side characters to the longer reigning Tudors. He also provides the reader with backstories into the people and living conditions of that era, showing the period to be awash with poverty, ignorance, and oppression. Henry and Elizabeth, who are 2 of the most remembered monarchs were certainly not the greatest. And their cruelty, greed, vanity, and selfishness was overwhelming. "Off with their heads" was more than a mere expression for them. This book is enlightening, educational and entertaining. The author pulls no punches yet still allows the reader to judge for him/herself as to the short but turbulent reign of the Tudors. At 24.5 hours in length, it's hard to believe that any more could be written about this dynasty - this has got to be the best researched book EVER on the subject. I'd like to see the author write a "prequel" about the Plantagenets who gave England 14 kings over a span of more than 300 years vs. the Tudor reign of only 118 (83 years combined between Henry VIII and Elizabeth I). This is the only book that I've bought here which is worth 2 credits.
83 of 88 people found this review helpful
I, like many people, have always been fascinated by the Tudors. Perhaps it is because of our popular culture, from the BBC to our movies, but the Tudors have always seemed like a remarkable group of rulers so I was particularly interested in G J Meyer's book on them. It was all I could have asked for and more.
My Meyer's examination of the Tudor dynasty, from Henry VII through Elizabeth I, is thorough, detailed and incisive. The book is full of detail, in some cases almost too much detail, and leaves little to the imagination. His indictment of the Tudors flies in the face of today's cultural view of the Tudors, but leaves little doubt as to the validity of his assessment.
Understandably much of the book centers on the two best known Tudor monarchs – Henry VIII (or, perhaps we should say Henry VIIJ as you will read in the book) and Elizabeth I – although Henry VII, Edward VI and Mary I are hardly ignored. Mr Meyer's indictment of both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I are based on fact and opened my eyes to a part of history that I did not know. Most of what I knew about Henry was related to his break from the Catholic Church and his efforts to secure a male heir. While I have always condemned what I saw as his “excesses” I thought I understood his desperate search for a male heir since there had never been a successful British Queen before that time. However I never really knew how much of a tyrant he was and I never really knew how much the British Parliament of his day had been made a creature of the crown. His slaughter of all of those who stood in his way, and of those who served him faithfully, are facts ignored by most contemperary accounts, at least those with which I was familiar.
His description of Elizabeth's reign also brought to my attention much I never knew. I had always thought that Elizabeth failed in perhaps her main responsibility to the British state – marrying and producing a successor – and I always thought that she did so out of her own selfishness, but I never knew much about her persuit of practicing Catholics in the country. I knew of the general policy and I knew about how her agents persued Catholic Priests to arrest them, but I never really felt that I knew why they did so. Mr Meyer explained the thinking behind this policy and, perhaps, why British policy up till the 20th century continued to exclude Catholics from most government positions. None of this is meant to excuse this policy for Mr Meyer makes clear that most Catholics, including those slaughtered for their beliefs, were loyal British subjects. In particular the story of Edmund Campion ended for me the idea of “Good Queen Bess”.
In A Word Undone, Mr Meyer's history of World War I, he alternated chapters between events and background information. His background sections were particularly helpful in explaining the “whys” in what was happening. He uses the same technique in this book, although there are not as many background chapters, to explain why things were as they were, why particular policies were followed and why particular solutions worked or did not work. I found this extremely helpful in understanding what was happening during the 120 or so years of the Tudors. Another thing I took away from this book is an understanding of how stable today's politics are compared to the world of the 16th century where the English, French, Spanish and Hapsburgs were constantly making and breaking alliances for the most transient of reasons.
This book is narrated by Robin Sachs who does a splendid job.
I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the period of the English Reformation or to those interested in British history of any period. So much of what happened during the reign of the Tudors is central to what came after that this book is enormously helpful in understanding events that happened hundreds of years after the last Tudor monarch died.
24 of 25 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to The Tudors the most enjoyable?
This is one of the best books I have listened to or read on The Tudors. I know there is no such thing as an unbiased historical account but I really felt the author attempted balance and neutrality. I also enjoyed the fact that Henry VII was included in the story as he often gets forgotten about. I thought this was particularly well told and fascinating start to the Tudor era.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Without even thinking..it is Henry VIII followed by Elizabeth. Their stories are without doubt fascinating and hugely dramatic.
What does Robin Sachs bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
The reader was particularly professional and easy to listen to.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No. I wanted to listen to this book little and often to absorb the information and think about the historical characters and events.
Any additional comments?
If you are looking for a book on the Tudor era I would highly recommend this above others. The research is in depth and no stone goes unturned. In my opinion one to listen to many times as there is so much information it is impossible to absorb it all in one read.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
It's quite clear that Mr Meyer brings a significant amount of baggage to this history. His slant on many of the events of the period and the personalities of Henry and (especially) Elizabeth clearly show definite opinions (usually negative) in the interpretation and choice of language.
To be fair the author does say at the beginning that the book is written entirely from secondary sources and that many of those authors would not agree with his interpretations.
Still it is refreshing to hear an alternative view, though I sometimes did find the narrative led me to start arguing with Mr Meyer in my head and I had to skip the last two hours as I'd had enough.
Finally kudos to Robin Sachs for some great narration.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Having listened to the author's book on The Borgias where he said at the beginning it was not the book he expected to write, ie he doesn't think they are as evil as painted, I was forewarned that his view of the Tudor dynasty could be interesting.
He comes down very firmly on the opposite view of the Tudors and can't imagine why they are still thought to be good monarchs. Just to complete the picture, he has an obvious soft spot for Mary, or Bloody Mary as many of us know her, while he really can't stand Henry VIII and Elizabeth. I prefer a less partisan approach.
The other problem I have is a personal one only - he is upfront about using secondary sources. I prefer published historians to have done at least some of the research from primary sources.
Oh, and by the way, are the poor really impotent? I would have thought indigent was the right word, otherwise there might not be too many of them in successive generations