Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Learn from Literature: The Tudors

Many say that books are knowledge, and knowledge is power. Historical fiction is no exception. Plenty will say history is boring, and that historical fiction is no more exciting, yet this is far from the truth. You can learn so much from reading historical fiction, and who would pass up an opportunity to learn about something as interesting as the Tudors in an enjoyable way?

Throughout the years, I’ve read historical fiction set in many eras, from the times of the Tudors, to the Victorians, to the Ancient Romans. Every one of these has taught me something, but my favourite time period would have to be the Tudor period.

I could name numerous authors who write about this time period, but regarding telling a story, my favourite is undoubtedly Philippa Gregory. But it’s important to note some creative licence is given to the author of historical fiction, and specific details of every event aren’t necessarily described. Yet it’s great for sparking a reader’s initial interest in and excitement about a time period.

It’s important to note some creative licence is given to the author of historical fiction

When delving into the Tudor world through Philippa Gregory, you can’t help being fascinated by the lives of the people, of each of the monarchs and the court that surrounds them. From the well-known Henry VIII to Richard III’s wife, Anne Neville, you’ll find yourself drawn into each and every storyline. The more you read, the more you begin to realise that you can suddenly explain the Tudor family tree, or you can now talk about the political system at the time, and this list goes on.

It’s difficult to name just one of Gregory’s books as a favourite. Ultimately it would be a tie between two books which both taught me a lot and completely gripped me: The Constant Princess and The Kingmaker’s Daughter. The former is a beautifully written narrative told from the perspective of Katherine of Aragon, the Spanish infanta and Henry VIII’s first wife. The latter, another wonderful story about Anne Neville, the daughter of the Richard Neville, the famous Earl of Warwick, otherwise known as ‘the Kingmaker’.

Discovering the time period through these two books allows you to learn from a new perspective, making it both fascinating and useful. In these two cases, the ability to learn about how women in the past had to deal with certain situations is particularly captivating, as for the most part men in history tend to be focused on.

Discovering the time period through these two books allows you to learn from a new perspective

The Constant Princess demonstrates the courage of a young woman, taken from her family at the age of sixteen to marry a man she had never met, to be Queen of a foreign nation. The story moves through her life, showing how through all the turbulent times, Queen Katherine always stayed true to herself and tried to be a good wife and Queen of England. In truth, it’s impossible not to sympathise with her and to want to find out more. The novel is gripping and tells you plenty, but you’re still left wanting even more knowledge.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter explains the struggles of being a woman during the War of the Roses. The book rouses sympathy as she’s used by her elders as a political tool on various occasions whilst trying to be the type of woman that she is expected to be.

In this novel, you gain insight into not only the life of Anne, but also that of the Yorkist kings, in particular Richard III, who is not necessarily painted as the bad guy in the novel as history often makes him out to be.

The novel is gripping and tells you plenty but you’re still left wanting even more knowledge 

So, if historical fiction hasn’t ever been something that has interested you, or you’ve always branded it as boring, I would say give it another try. You might just surprise yourself with what you can learn, and with what you can start to love.

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