A short, beautifully straightforward, absorbing book on the Tudors--and Plowden's fifth on the era, no less--that brings forth no new material or conclusions. Having considered the ever-popular dynasty from such angles as the Catholic cause and European diplomacy, Plowden's twist this time is incipient feminism: Continentals marveled at the free and easy ways of Englishwomen and their authority in the land--it was for reasons of independence, Plowden argues, that Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's despised fourth wife, elected to stay on rather than return home after the divorce. But though female education improved and exceptional women made their mark in innumerable fields--as exceptional women always have--the status of most females remained second rate, if anything more so once the Reformation had solidified. But Plowden does not examine this situation too deeply, and her few revelations of the life of commoners, their weddings and brithings and household chores, seem, though interesting, tossed in as filler. The story that really grabs her is the thrice-told tale of the royal Tudors, from Henry VII's meddling mother through Henry VIII's hapless wives to his remarkable daughters. The much-examined Elizabeth, though the most remarkable woman of an age rich in them, is but casually treated here. The rest get some perceptive character analysis and a good deal of apt description from the best (but all familiar) contemporary sources. Yet many of them have been studied in greater detail elsewhere (e.g., Mattingly's Catherine of Aragon). One might draw the line at yet another casual account of Tudor eccentricities, one might even hope Plowden will turn her conspicuous talents to a new period; but this version is certainly clear, literate, brief, and lively reading, no matter how often one has read it all before.