Thank you to Pen and Sword Books for the gifted copy of this book to review.
I really enjoyed this book. It was so interesting, and I learnt quite a lot about the way the Tudors thought about sex and the roles of women and gender. It is irrevocably tied in to the Reformation and changing religious views across the long Tudor century. This is all discussed throughout as McGrath dives into several different areas.
The perceptions of sex are discussed including when you should and shouldn’t have sex, words related to sex, and some humorous sections, as there was bound to be when discussing sex! It’s a great mix of informative and entertaining which I really enjoyed. It’s not too ‘heavy’ to read and quite a concise and clear read.
It offers a different view on Tudor England, though there is still quite a lot of focus on Henry VIII and his relationships with his wives. There could have been more on the general populace, and maybe looking more at court cases about women i.e. scolding, adultery, fornication, and children.
The main reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars was because I felt there was too much focus on the royal history, as well as a few errors as below:
Page 12/64 – Thomas Howard referred to as Earl of Norfolk when he was Duke of Norfolk
Page 27 – It was said that Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur were married at Westminster Abbey when they were actually married in St Paul’s Cathedral
Page 58 – Field of the Cloth of Gold said to have happened in 1521, but it was actually 1520
Page 88 – Anne Boleyn’s father was described as Duke of Wiltshire when he was Earl of Wiltshire
Page 88 – Francis Byron questioned over Anne Boleyn’s fall, but it was Francis Bryan
Page 92 – McGrath says that Catherine Carey was acknowledged as Henry VIII’s daughter, but she was never acknowledged, it was only rumoured
Resolving these errors would make the book read a lot better and make me feel more like I could trust what else the author was saying. Errors make me feel like I can’t believe everything the author is saying, but this book was so interesting that I didn’t want to knock more than 1 star off my review.
The Church, the Lady and Sexuality
Tudor Marriage and Matters Sexual
Medical Practices and Beliefs Associated with Childbirth and Contraception
Attracting the Opposite Sex
Dress to Impress & Tudor Dance and Music
Courtly Romance and Poetry
Noli Me tangere, for Caesar’s I am & Court Mistresses
A Visit to a Brothel and Illicit Sex Issues & Aphrodisiacs and Love Potions
Thanks to Pen and Sword for gifting me a copy of this to review.
This is quite a different take on the Tudor period which I really enjoyed. It’s written in really short chapters which makes it easy to read and dip in and out of and return to if you want to refresh your memory on a particular event.
The book covers 45 different events of the Tudor period which are the most grisly events of the period rather than the most common events. These include the poisoning of Bishop Fisher, the blackened heart of Katherine of Aragon, Mary I’s phantom pregnancies, and the kidnap of Mary Queen of Scots, among many others. Particular attention is paid to some of the more gory or unusual aspects of the events described which is quite novel and something that some history books skate over.
The book has a great selection of images, and a comprehensive index. There are two things I will say that stops this being a 5-star read for me, maybe just as a historian myself, there is a lack of original / contemporary primary sources listed in the bibliography though they have been used in the text itself, but that certainly doesn’t detract from the excellent discourse and ease of reading of this book which I thoroughly enjoyed! There is also only mention of Henry VII in the Bosworth chapter but no further mention of him really, even given the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions and the execution of the Earl of Warwick.
Aside from these two things I can’t really fault it! This is a fantastic addition to my Tudor bookcase and one that I will certainly come back to when working on my own writing! It really does cover so many different things that there will be something for everyone whatever your interests are; political, personal, medical, or death. A brilliant gory discourse on my favourite period of history!