Tudor: the Family Story

Written by Leanda de Lisle
Review by Cassandra Clark

What a story this is. The perfect book for the legions of readers obsessed by the bloody Tudor dynasty, it ‘recalibrates our perspective’ in de Lisle’s own words and, in crisp prose, warns against interpreting the past from the point of view of the present. Starting with the moment when a chamber servant, Owen Tudor, literally falls into the lap of the young widow of Agincourt hero, Henry V, it becomes a roller-coaster ride through five generations of royal family squabbles of the most vicious, devious, ambitious and bloody sort. De Lisle is a brilliant story-teller, and this is no dry account, but unlike much of the fantasy history written these days she squares her observations with known facts, and where the record is missing she offers credible and fair-minded suppositions about what might have happened. To this end questions that have teased historians and general public alike are put in context. Mysteries such as the disappearance of the little princes in the Tower, for instance, though she admits to a lack of documentary evidence, she shows to have been in the interests of both Richard III and his successor Henry VII in order to justify their own ‘right’ to the Throne and, for Henry, the first Tudor king, to gain a firmer grasp on the Crown.

Well supplied with family trees, maps, footnotes and bibliography as well as a succinct epilogue, this book must surely become the first port of call for anyone wishing to understand the who, what and why of this blood-soaked dynasty.