How to become a Wolf Hall buff

With the third instalment of the much talked about BBC2 Wolf Hall series due to appear on our screens tonight, we reveal the definitive reading list for you to brush up on your Tudor knowledge.

Damian Lewis as King Henry VIII in Wolf Hall. Credit: Company Productions Ltd

Fans of BBC2’s Wolf Hall will no doubt be looking forward to tonight’s third episode with baited breath.

While an element of surprise is often preferable, given that the programme is based on historical events, spoiler alerts seem somewhat irrelevant. We’d rather get a proper grasp of the fascinating real lives behind those characters appearing in the show, and gain some insight into why the author of the books on which the series is based, Hilary Mantel, depicted each figure as she did. Understanding the unfolding of events throughout this thrilling era will certainly give you a good standing to have high-brow conversations on the subject.

And who isn’t interested in learning more about the true stories of life at court, what it was like to be Mrs Henry VIII, or the very origins of the Tudor dynasty? A top 10 facts or 10 things you didn’t know about the Tudors? Yes please.

So here is our list of some of the best books to read to turn you into a Tudor buff:

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall. Credit: Company Productions Ltd

Henry VIII bookThe Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories, by Amy Licence

The world’s history books are full to the brim with accounts of King Henry VIII’s appetite for women but this thorough and riveting study of his love affairs attempts to see things from the perspective of those ladies he pursued. Looking at contemporary evidence including letters from the ladies and Henry themselves, the book explores the experience’s of the women who shared his bed, how they took the leap from courtier to lover, to wife, and what Henry was like as a lover.

Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the writings of the Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, by Lauren Mackay

Another attempt at looking at the gripping reality of the Tudor Court through the eyes of a lesser-known but important player on the scene. The reports and dispatches of Eustace Chapuys, who served Charles V as Imperial Ambassador to Henry VIII’s court from 1529 to 1545, are surprisingly instrumental in shaping our modern perceptions of the King and his wives, and his writings are filled with colourful anecdotes, gossip and intriguing personal insight.

Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker, by Terry Breverton

The first ever biography of the founder of the Tudor dynasty and uncle of King Henry VII, the first monarch of the House of Tudor. Taking readers through the twists and turns of Jasper’s life, this will give you a helpful understanding of the basis for Henry VII’s rise to glory.

Anne Boleyn bookIn the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, by Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger

The character of Anne Boleyn will forever be one of history’s most compelling characters. And the focus of this extensive book is to see her life through her eyes. Containing a vast range of images, from photographs to floor plans and sketches, this book aims to bring the 16th century to life as it offers you a glimpse into Henry VIII’s headstrong young wife and mother to Queen Elizabeth I.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Tudors But Were Afraid to Ask, by Terry Breverton

Thank goodness for this compendium of bite-sized chunks of information and trivia on topics as diverse as music and medicine, science and schools, and music and martyrdom. This will sate the curiosity of the most determined Tudor fans, at least for now.

Thomas Cromwell: Servant to Henry VIII, by David Loades

Mark Rylance‘s depiction of his character Thomas Cromwell in BBC2’s Wolf Hall has been mesmerisingly convincing so far. But for a more academic account delving a little deeper into the real Cromwell, this tome will take you that much closer to understanding his true nature.

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