Tudor Women: Queens and Commoners by Alison Plowden

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RATING: 3.5/5

BLURB: “The Tudor era belongs to its women. No other period of English history has produced so many notable and interesting women, and in no other period have they so powerfully influenced the course of political events. Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I and, at moments of high drama, Mary Queen of Scots dominated the political scene for more than half a century, while in the previous fifty years Henry VIII’s marital escapades brought six more women to the centre of attention. In this book the women of the royal family are the central characters; the royal women set the style and between them they provide a dazzling variety of personalities as well as illustrating almost every aspect of life as it affected women in Tudor England. We know what they ate, how they dressed, the books they read and the letters they wrote. Even the greatest of them suffered the universal legal and physiological disabilities of womanhood – some survived them, some triumphed over them, and some went under. Now revised and updated, Alison Plowden’s beautifully written account of the women behind the scenes and at the forefront of of sixteenth-century English history will be welcomed by anyone interested in exploring this popular period of history from the point of view of the women who made it.”

REVIEW: I haven’t read a non-fiction for a while, as much as I love them, and this was a welcome return to a genre I’ve always enjoyed. Plowden writes in a witty, engaging way about women that she clearly admires – most notably Margaret Beaufort, Catherine of Aragon and Mary 1st. She injects a touch of sarcasm every so often that also makes the book more amusing and enjoyable,  also including historical anecdotes. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the information provided, especially within the Anne Boleyn section, I feel that the book needed to be much longer to fully disclose all the fascinating qualities about the women that made Tudor history. For example, some chapters were extremely lengthy – such as the one on Margaret Beaufort – but other women, like Kathryn Howard, were dealt with in only a few pages, and there was nothing written in those pages that I had not read a hundred times before in other biographies. The book would be a great introduction to Tudor history in regards to the position of women, however, and was written in an engaging manner that makes it easy to recommend to other history fans.

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