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The Tudor Dynasty has been the subject of many novels and movies because of its theatrical dimension: three kings (Henry VII, VIII, Edward VI) and three queens (Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I) who lived both tragic and triumphal times.
Love and Politics
With his six marriages, Henry VIII has been the ideal character for novelists and film producers. The latest TV series, The Tudors, was (2007) created by Michael Hirst for Showtime. It focuses on how the king's love life influenced his political decisions: in order to divorce Katherine of Aragon, he rejected Rome which led to the creation of the Church of England. Sex and violence dominate the filming, unlike the BBC classic with Keith Michell The Six Wives of Henry VIII which gives a softer version of the events.
Always pursuing his own interests, he accused his second wife, Ann Boleyn, of adultery and had her beheaded. The real reason was her inability to provide him with a male heir as is told in The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell and The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl is also available as a film starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johannson). However, the most complete dramatic writing remains The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George.
Lineage and Adversity : The Queens
In this Tudor era of treachery and deceit, "courtier" was a synonym of "spy." Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, was surrounded by predators she kept fighting and defeating. Her supreme power is also recounted by Margaret George in her most recent work, Elizabeth I: A Novel (2011).
If Elizabeth I reigned for 44 years, Lady Jane Grey, unfortunate pawn of politics, was queen for only 9 days! The story Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner and An Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey by Alison Weir show how her selfish father sealed her fate by rebelling: she was 16 years old when executed.
She was succeeded by Mary Tudor, an angry ruler, desperate for control and posterity as Suzannah Dunn describes in The Queen's Sorrow.
Court and Intrigues
Famous historical figures surrounding the sovereigns have become the main characters of riveting tales. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a favorite of Elizabeth I is shown as her reckless lover and jealous, passionate wooer in His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and The Earl of Leicester by Jeane Westin. C.W. Gortner focuses on his younger years by way of a fictional spy hero Brendon Prescott in The Tudor Secret.
In Carolly Erickson Rival to the Queen, the focus is on Lettice Knollys, Elizabeth's cousin and attendant who ended up marrying Dudley.
In The Virgin Queen's Daughter: A Novel, Ella March Chase entertains readers by creating the character of a midwife who attended Elizabeth's "supposed" teenage delivery. The line between actual events and literary creation is blurred but it is always thrilling to read what may have transpired behind the scenes.
Historical fiction interweaves facts and fantasy but no matter what you read, the end is always the same!
Jocelyne C., albeit a French romantic, has a passion for British history that she loves to share with library patrons.