An ornate, admiring history of everyone's favorite English dynasty--though the Tudors, descendants of one Owen Meredith, were orginally Welsh. Plowden, author of two books on Elizabeth I, writes with regal flair of the domestic intrigues, misalliances, and contretemps on which the destinies of a nation turned. Her judgments on statecraft are sound albeit conventional: Henry VII, overshadowed by his more flamboyant son, and Elizabeth I ""bastard"" daughter of bad Nan Boleyn, were the two outstanding rulers--frugal, diplomatic, and humane ""with no relish for shedding blood."" Henry VIII, he of the six wives, was in fact no lecher-even if the chroniclers described him as ""much handsomer than any other sovereign in Christendom."" Without being sententiously Freudian, Plowden wonders what secret insecurities lurked behind his ""terrifying joviality."" Royal weddings and beddings and coronation processionals get the lion's share of her attention, and she relies on bards and ballad-mongers as much as on historians. Henry VIII's break with Rome, the English Reformation, the piteous Marian martyrs, and the shifting alliances with Spain and France are not overlooked, but the dazzle of crimson satin, purple velvet, and ermine-trimmed robes steals the show; and why not--""the Tudors knew the value of putting on a good show.