QAB Book Review: “The Private Lives of The Tudors” by Tracy Borman


by James Peacock

Editor’s Note: James Peacock is the founder of The Anne Boleyn Society. Visit James on facebook at The Anne Boleyn Society.




The Tudor Dynasty ruled over England for approximately one hundred and eighteen years, a relatively short time when compared to the Plantagenets or the Stuarts rule over Scotland. Still, people with little interest in history are drawn to this period, largely thanks to Showtime’s series The Tudors (2007-2010) and countless Hollywood movies set during the era. Also, this period has something for everyone, including drama, battles, romance, politics — the list is endless. People just can’t get enough of the story of Henry VIII and his six wives or Elizabeth I and her endless suitors, not to mention that inspiring Tilbury speech.

In her latest book The Private Lives of the Tudors, Dr. Tracy Borman takes on a new angle in examining these fascinating people by looking at the private lives of the monarchs and their consorts behind the closed doors of their sumptuous Palaces. Many stereotypes labelled on these people, such as Henry VII being a boring old miser, Edward VI being a puppet King, Mary I being a dried up spinster incapable of fun, and many others are debunked with evidence stating the contrary. Readers will come away from this seeing most – if not all – of these people in a new light.

The book is not intended to be a biography, but more a glimpse into life at the Tudor court, everything from the fashion to diet to hobbies and much more is examined. For example, Henry VII spent excessive amounts of money on rich clothing — a revelation to many. Also enlightening is what we still exists today of items belonging to each of the monarchs and what they can tell us about them as people. My personal favourites were the mementos Elizabeth I kept of her mother Anne Boleyn, as well as the documents and letters Edward VI kept that referenced his mother Jane Seymour.

What is so special about this book is it succeeds in bringing to life the Tudors as real people. It is often not easy to read many history books, and I feel that they often come off as one-dimensional. Instead, Dr. Borman succeeds bringing us as close to the real people that lived so long ago as we possibly can. They come life with real emotions and that is all to Tracy Borman’s credit.

It was also interesting to read more about the set up of meals at court, the number of dishes brought out, and how someone’s status would determine how many courses guests would receive. Other interesting topics include the discussion of clothes and how they would determine someone’s status and wealth, as well as the changing of the fashions over the period. Also of particular interest was the topic of the set up of the Private Apartments, how far people of certain status would get, and what the duties for the vast number of staff attending the monarchs and their consorts consisted off.

Prepare to have the way you view these people challenged, as you learn more about the monarchs behind the glittering crowns and jewels, learn of their struggles to hold onto absolute power through portraiture intended to keep the mystique around the monarchy, whilst also having the personal touch. The only downside is you will definitely wish the book went on for longer.

History lovers and those who find most history books quite dry will easily enjoy this unique look at Tudor History thanks to Dr. Tracy Borman’s easy to read and engaging writing. It truly is a book for everyone — a truly informative and thoroughly enjoyable read.


Dr. Tracy Borman
Dr. Tracy Borman

Dr. Tracy Borman Tracey Borman is a historian and author from Scothern, United Kingdom. She is most widely known as the author of Elizabeth’s Women.

Borman was born and brought up in the village of Scothern, England near Lincoln. She was educated at Scothern Primary School (now Ellison Boulters School), William Farr School, Welton, and Yarborough School, Lincoln. She taught history at the University of Hull, where she was awarded a Ph.D in 1997.


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James Peacock

I run The Anne Boleyn Society, which I set up in 2014. Over the years the society has grown tremendously and there are accounts on Facebook, Instagram (@society_anne) and Twitter (@Society_Anne). With over 20,000 followers, the society aims to debate and discuss the life and times of Queen Anne Boleyn while taking into account the period in which she lived in.

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