The Terrible Tudors

Philippa Gregory was on the radio discussing the continuing fascination with the Tudors - particularly Henry VIII - a fascination that I don't share. In fact I would go further and say that I would not willingly read anything more about the that monster or any of his benighted wives. I seem to be in a minority of one in not liking Wolf Hall.

There is a good reason why historians as well as historical soap-drama are so fixated and it is to do with historical documentation as much as lopped off heads and bodice bursting lust. The key thing about Henry's killing was that it was judicial: not for him the simple joys of laying about his enemies with a sword. Each of his victims was given the full complexity of a judicial murder which involved a trial and the collecting of all the victim's papers which became the property of the state. As there were no 'Not Guilty' verdicts and there were a lot of trials, the state under Henry acquired a quantity of documents that is unique - until the 19th century. It was at that time that the Victorians filed and stored nearly nine hundred folios of nearly a thousand pages each from Henry's reign - a treasure trove for historians who, when researching the world of Henry's daughter, Elizabeth, have only a fraction of the archive material to occupy them.

It is this treasure trove of source materials that have fed the Tudor history machine as much as the loose heads of Henry's queens.

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