Contextually sweeping history of the gloriously infamous Tudor era.
Unlike the somewhat ponderous British biographies of the Henrys, Elizabeths and Boleyns that seem to pop up perennially, Meyer (A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918, 2006, etc.) displays some flashy, fresh irreverence. The author never loses track of the lay reader, extracting the most plausible theories from the academics without belaboring the points, while offering alternating chapters within his narrative on pertinent topics of 16th-century English society and government that aid in filling in the landscape. Meyer’s aim is to clear out some of the lace and tulle that Hollywood has wound around the Tudors. The author covers Henry Tudor, a Welsh commoner who by sheer luck won the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and was crowned king when Richard III was slain from his horse; Henry’s arrogant, profligate second son, Henry VIII, whose pampered later years turned him into a tyrant and “monster”; and the Tudor apotheosis personified by the wily, vain, intelligent Elizabeth I. Meyer subverts the now rather ho-hum custom of chronological storytelling by cutting to the quick of the action, then ambling backward to fill in the details. The author is clear that the lives of Tudors were “studded with acts of atrocious cruelty and false dealing,” but they make for highly entertaining stories. Meyer also provides intriguing profiles of the era’s many other interesting characters, including Thomas Wolsey, Elizabeth Barton, Luther, Calvin, Thomas More and numerous popes.
Energetic and comprehensive.