Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Private Lives of the Tudors - Tracy Borman

The Private Lives of the Tudors:
Uncovering the Secrets of Britain's Greatest Dynasty
Tracy Borman

The Tudor monarchs were constantly surrounded by an army of attendants, courtiers and ministers. Even in their most private moments, they were accompanied by a servant specifically appointed for the task. A groom of the stool would stand patiently by as Henry VIII performed his daily purges, and when Elizabeth I retired for the evening, one of her female servants would sleep at the end of her bed.

These attendants knew the truth behind the glamorous exterior. They saw the tears shed by Henry VII upon the death of his son Arthur. They knew the tragic secret behind 'Bloody' Mary's phantom pregnancies. And they saw the 'crooked carcass' beneath Elizabeth I's carefully applied makeup, gowns and accessories.

It is the accounts of these eyewitnesses, as well as a rich array of other contemporary sources that historian Tracy Borman has examined more closely than ever before. With new insights and discoveries, and in the same way that she brilliantly illuminated the real Thomas Cromwell - The Private Life of the Tudors will reveal previously unexamined details about the characters we think we know so well.


Ok. So, perhaps having this book's subtitle be "Uncovering the Secrets of Britain's Greatest Dynasty" is what set The Private Lives of the Tudors on the wrong footing with me. I love the Tudors. I live near enough to Hampton Court that I can go whenever I want. I spend many, many summer days at Hever Castle, brought my parents to Hatfield House, spent a night at Thornbury Castle and The Mermaid Inn, etc, etc…you get the point. So, when I saw a Tudor book that in its very title told me it was "uncovering secrets"….I pressed click and kept both my fingers and toes crossed for an ARC.

And I got one! Yay!

But that’s where my excitement ended. This book does little more than rehash all of the no-longer-private details that any reader who has even done a cursory study of the Tudors would already know, and then pads the book out with general history. There's no new secrets uncovered and no ground-breaking insight.

In this day in age when most of this kind of information can be found for free on the internet (there are a great many Tudor bloggers who will go into even further detail than this book), it's incredibly difficult to justify a purchase without something more substantial. Those who would pick up this volume in the hopes that it's fleshed out with new information will be disappointed by the minutiae The Private Lives of the Tudors actually contains. For all the work I have no doubt Borman put into compiling this book, I'm afraid there just isn’t enough fresh material for those of us generally more than willing to part with our sovereigns--if only it were truly a book that was uncovering the secrets of Britain's greatest dynasty.


Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a complementary ARC of this book and asking for my honest opinion, which this certainly is.

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