The Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty

Written by Tracy Borman
Review by Susan Higginbotham

In Borman’s latest, the focus is not only the personal relationships of the Tudor monarchs and their intimates, but also the trappings of their daily lives. Along with such ever-popular topics as Henry VIII’s love life and Elizabeth I’s virginity, we learn about such matters as daily hygiene (Borman tackles the tedious misconception that the Tudors were filthy), royal courtship (the widowed Henry VII, considering a new bride, commanded ambassadors to report on the size of the lady’s breasts, which turned out to be “somewhat great & fully”), and positions such as the notorious groom of the stool (“look there be blanket, cotton, or linen to wipe the nether end,” the Book of Nurture commanded).

The joint chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, Borman is well equipped for her task and does not disappoint. While she presents a breadth of information, she does so in an engaging manner, and the biographical aspects of her book meld smoothly with its other concerns. Even those who are well-acquainted with the Tudor dynasty will find this a useful addition to their shelves.