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House of Tudor (Paperback)

A Grisly History

P&S History > British History > Tudors & Stuarts P&S History > By Century > 15th Century P&S History > Royal History

By Mickey Mayhew
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 200
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399011082
Published: 14th March 2024



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Gruesome but not gratuitous, this decidedly darker take on the Tudors, from 1485 to 1603, covers some forty-five ‘events’ from the Tudor reign, taking in everything from the death of Richard III to the botched execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and a whole host of horrors in between. Particular attention is paid to the various gruesome ways in which the Tudors despatched their various villains and lawbreakers, from simple beheadings, to burnings and of course the dreaded hanging, drawing and quartering. Other chapters cover the various diseases prevalent during Tudor times, including the dreaded ‘Sweating Sickness’ – rather topical at the moment, unfortunately – as well as the cures for these sicknesses, some of which were considered worse than the actual disease itself. The day-to-day living conditions of the general populace are also examined, as well as various social taboos and the punishments that accompanied them, i.e. the stocks, as well as punishment by exile. Tudor England was not a nice place to live by 21st century standards, but the book will also serve to explain how it was still nevertheless a familiar home to our ancestors.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a brilliant book! While I love me some nonfiction goodies, I’ll admit it’s hard for them to make me go all oh, hey! They evoke awe with photography and polite interest with prose—a literary palate-cleanser? Mind-cleanser? Something like that. Still, hard facts and reality don’t go well with emotions, at least for me.

House of Tudor brings a welcome change to the table. The historical parts, while well-researched, are nothing new; the way they’re presented is. Mayhew’s style is spot on. He’s funny, references back both books and tv series, and doesn’t pull punches. The dark and gritty details are all there, from torture to botched executions—don’t read it when you’re eating.

The book covers a lot of ground. Henry VIII and his unlucky wives, Mary Tudor, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, their issues—boy, they had a lot—and the people caught in the middle of them. Yet, it wraps everything up in 187 pages, a good choice if you ask me. Overdoing it is a real risk with nonfiction.

Let me stress on it: this is not a happy-go-lucky story nor a clinical recount of facts. This is a unique spin on history.

NetGalley, Tissie Lilaclicorice

I totally enjoyed reading this book! It’s a great beginning to read new things about Tudors. And also Henry VIII’s famous beheadings. This book starts with Richard III’s death. It has 45 chapters and totally written very neatly and detailed! But if you have a weak stomach be careful while reading this book ahah!

I found this book very very fascinating and the short but satisfying chapters were easy to digest. I love reading and learning about Tudors and Tudor era, and also I love horror!

I also really liked how popular myths or pop culture interpretations were dispelled throughout, putting into context why the book Wolf Hall or the show The Tudors might choose a certain interpretation, even if it’s likely inaccurate (or just unknown.) Having read or seen most of the references in the book, I really enjoyed getting that extra context. If you haven’t seen/read those, the references are not excessive, so you can easily skip those sentences.

But if you’re already familiar with the timeframe, and are interested in a somewhat morbid view, this is a great book to pick up!

A Tudor Reader

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I absolutely love the Tudor period so any chance of reading something about I jump all over.
This was great.
Really well researched and it shows.
Wonderful .

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What's not to love about this book?
It gives concise chapters on all the gory details you always wanted to know about the Tudors. What happened to the body of Richard III? How did torture work? What happened to Mary Queen of Scots husbands? How did Elizabeth I die? This has it all and Mickey Mayhew ensures these are all told in a far from dull way. There's humour woven in along with references to The Tudors TV show (an inaccurate but guilty pleasure) as well as other recent adaptations of Tudor themes.

It doesn't just focus on the gruesome aspects people did to each other, it also covers things like disease including Sweating Sickness and Syphilis.

This book can be picked up and put down easily due to how concise and different the chapters are, or you can skip to those that really interest you which for me was Margaret Clitheroe but I'd recommend reading it all as its fabulous!

Many will know alot of the details but the way Mickey Mayhew writes makes reading fun, even if you do already know! I particularly like how Mayhew notes the current state of locations as to whether they're a ruin or abandoned etc. I made a note of a couple to visit thanks to this book.

NetGalley, Amy McElroy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a huge Tudor fan and will read anything about the Tudor's. This book was amazing. I couldn't put it down and fully enjoyed all the aspects of this book. It was very well written. I truly enjoyed that it didn't just focus on Henry VIII.

NetGalley, Elizabeth Brandimarte

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I thought well written and concise history of the Tudors from Richard III’s death to Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution. There is obviously a huge amount that went on in the time period covered, so I appreciated the fact that the author picked the more interesting stories and characters to focus on.

Although I studied the Tudor dynasty in high school for history, there were still things I discovered for the first time. I also enjoyed reading some of the things I remembered as well as one of my favourite Tudor mysteries of all time did Amy Robsart fall or was it murder?).

The author has woven examples from contemporary TV shows such as The Tudors to highlight what is historical fact and what is more “Hollywood treatment” of the time period. Having never seen the TV programs - I’m more of a “read the book” type - it did get a little disconcerting, but I can also appreciate that it opens up history to a wider audience who’s only exposure to the historical period may be through TV. And the history was still very enjoyable!

Worth a read for newcomers to the Tudors as well as those who’ve sat school exams in history on the topic. An enjoyable and well researched read.

NetGalley, Kelly Palmer

I have been interested in the Tudor era for sometime but wasn’t really sure where to begin. House of Tudor A Grisly History is the PERFECT book to start your Tudor journey with.

From the very first page I was consumed, enthralled and totally prepared to devour this collection of grisly stories as quickly as possible.

It’s a book you can keep returning to and it’s also a book that will DEFIANTLY add more books to your TBR.

5 stars

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Instagram, @georgi_lvs_books

With this we get a potted grisly history of the Tudors. I love the Tudor period, we all know the stories of Henry and his 6 wives…divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived and this covers those plus some other forty five events from that time. So we take in the demise of Richard III to the botched execution of Mary Queen of Scots and a lot in between.
There are beheadings, burnings, disease and being hanged drawn and quartered.

It is readable, interesting, gruesome and entertaining too. It contained information that I already knew but a lot that I didn’t, it has been well researched and was an enjoyable read. Very detailed there were some parts that I read out to my teenage kids- having just recently visited Hampton Court it tied in nicely with what we had seen and another visit to the Tower of London with the instruments of torture!

A gruesome and entertaining read, one you can dip in and out of and bring the tudors to life!

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Instagram, @travels.along.my.bookshelf

I’ve been absolutely fascinated with the Tudors ever since I covered them at school during my History A Level, so I jumped at the chance of reading this! It’s the perfect read for anyone who is already obsessed with the Tudors- or wants to be! In honour of the occasion, I also visited Lacock Abbey, which has some fabulous Tudor history behind it and was one of the last abbeys to be dissolved by Henry VIII.

@mickeymayhew has written a fab book which focuses on all the more gruesome and grisly parts of this era by looking at 45 different events/scenarios spanning from 1485-1603.

What I really enjoyed about this book was how readable this history book is, although at times I found myself almost having to put my hand over my eyes when reading about some of the gruesome incidents!!

The book is broken down into 45 chapters which are great for just jumping straight into the action and picking up whenever I liked, wherever I was! I instantly felt transported into the Tudor world. What I also found really great too was that this book has a lot of focus on the women from this period.

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Instagram, @historian_ellis

As someone who loves the Tudor period I was delighted when I was invited to be part of this tour.

This book takes you on a tantalising journey through many of the events that adorned the Tudor period. From Henry 8th to Mary Queen of Scots this book has something in it for everyone.

There may be a lot of chapters (45 to be precise) but they are short and snappy. The accessible writing style will draw you in and give you a glimpse of Tudor life.

Alongside the historical details this book mentions many popular adaptations and novels. I thought this was a really clever idea as it gave a frame of reference to the less history minded reader. I have to admit that most of my history knowledge is gained through adaptations so I really enjoyed this little detail.

Personally I loved reading more about Mary Queen of Scots, I found her chapters fascinating and now need to know everything about her.

For all you Tudor lovers out there this is a book you do not want to miss.

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Instagram, @thebookdiaryofmisshewlett

This was a really enjoyable book to read. I loved Mickey's writing style and the chapters were short, so you can easily pick the book up to read a couple of chapters here and there.
It was really interesting and informative and it was nice to read about the less glamorous side of such a popular period.
I learned so much from reading this book, and it's one I will probably refer back to in the future.
I would definitely recommend for any history lover, especially if Tudor history is your era.

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Instagram, @reading_with_leanne

I will happily read anything Tudor, it is a close tie with the Medieval as my favourite time periods to read about. I think I have read every one available and even though I could maybe write them myself now, I never stop loving a Tudor book.

In saying that, this book actually managed to surprise me, with quite a few gems of information that even I had never heard of or read about. This made me love it even more!

The book covers all the Tudor period from the downfall of Richard iii to the death of Elizabeth I but also including the Scottish Mary Queen of Scots. Mary was a Tudor cousin but often only makes a supporting role in general Tudor histories as she was Scottish royalty. Horrendously bias, but I loved that inclusion of Mary.

A grisly history of the Tudor would be so easy to write with just the main executions giving plenty of material. I loved that the author has included a few of the obvious highlights but also focused on giving the reader lesser known antidotes.

Highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Tudors or just history. A very easy read, well researched, thoughtfully put together and full of interesting history, with the right amount of gore.

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Instagram, @historic_rabbithole

Think of this book as a Horrible Histories book for adults; a different perspective on Tudor history focussing on the darker parts of history: gruesome deaths, deathly diseases and brutal events. Personally I find these events the most entertaining and fascinating and this book is definitely that!

With short and easily readable chapters, the reader gets an informative potted history of key events during this historical period with lots of details on botched beheadings, torture devices used on suspected traitors, and the worst punishment for treason to be hung, drawn and quartered. Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of King Henry VIII…

All the most well known historical figures will feature like Henry VIII, his six wives, Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolseley. While I know a lot about this period from studying it at school to reading about it to watching it on tv, it feels good to be back with these infamous characters.

In addition to the grisly events above, we learn about diseases like the sweating sickness that Anne Boleyn was lucky to survive from (but many didn’t), the terrible ulcerated leg that King Henry suffered for most of his later years following a jousting injury as well as the tyrannical reign of Bloody Mary. There is much more to discover!

If you enjoy reading and learning about the Tudors, don’t miss this one!

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Instagram, @bookmarkonthewall

This looks at a myriad of the dark, depressing and often sad parts of the Tudor dynasty.
We start at the beginning with the founder, Henry VII battling against Richard III and go through chronologically until the death of Elizabeth I. Decapitation, murder plots, illness, fertility issues, burnings etc, you name a despicable depressing topic and you're almost certainly guaranteed to find it in these pages.
The writing was accessible and flowed well and I was quite fond of the chapter names, The only way is Essex being a stand out choice of name.

I think this would be a great for people who haven't dabbled much in nonfiction, especially the Tudors as you do get a good taste of the reign, it was not a cheerful one! Or perhaps you read true crime stories and want to branch out into something different but with a connection to ease you in. The short chapters are also a great way to digest the information as you can dip in and out or binge it with ease!

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Instagram, @sarasreadingdairy

House of Tudor A Grisly History by @mickeymayhew is packed full of chapters retelling the more gruesome side of Tudor history.

There are 45 chapters, each covering a rather nastier part of the Tudor history - from the horrific way Richard III met his end which started the Tudor reign to heartbroken Elizabeth I dying in her bed and everything in between.

Botched executions, gruesome tortures, sexual promiscuity, mental illness, assassinations … the side of the Tudors you don’t always hear about … there is plenty for everyone here!

Mayhew’s writing style is easy to follow and his work informative. There were times when I laughed out loud, was silenced in shock and had to stop reading at one point to try and get the image of poor Mark Smeaton out of my head.

This is a great addition to any shelf, whether you’re a regular reader or Tudor history or just getting started. The bibliography reads like my new ‘to buy’ list and House of Tudor history A Grisly History will certainly be a book a refer back to more than once!

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Instagram, @historianette

House of Tudor tells of some of the darker aspects of the period, covering torture and executions, as well as various health issues experienced by people of the time.

I think my favourite chapters of the book were those that examined the health issues of Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, and Mary I. The inclusion of some medical history in the book was a real bonus.

The book is organised into 45 chapters - all are really concise and readable so it’s a great book to dip in and out of when you have time - it’s almost like reading a collection of articles. This tone is further cemented by the author's use of humour throughout the book.

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Instagram, @historywithmegs

I really enjoyed this - I'm not often a non fiction reader, and certainly not of history, but this didn't feel like a non fiction in many ways.

Think horrible histories for adults- that is literally this book. I loved that there was a good mix of detail as well as lots of references to the portrayals of the events and historical figures in the media- for instance The Tudors series was mentioned a lot (made me want to rewatch it!) as well as Reign towards the end.

This book wasn't just covering the deaths and ailments of the royals but also those ordered by royalty to - I.e ordering the slaughter/ torture of heretics (or catholics depending on who was in power)

I can't really decided which was my favourite part - We go through Henry VII to Elizabeth I so a lot is covered in a short book, but the historical events were concisely contextualised and explained so even history novices like me could follow along with ease. I did like the Mary Queen of Scots details.

Certainly Grisly at times- that cauldron thing turned my stomach a bit and I'm not usually squeamish, but such an interesting read!

5/5 really recommend

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Instagram, @bookswithkayleigh

I really enjoyed House of Tudor by @mickeymayhew it was the right mix of information & grisly bits to make it a very easy and fun read!

I love how it covers so many different parts of the Tudor reign from things such as The Sweating sickness to the calamity on Carberry Hill as well lots on botched executions which I have to say were a real highlight - we all secretly love reading about the horrific bits don’t we?!

I loved some of the creative chapter names - they really grabbed my attention whilst reading! I have to say that my favourite chapter title has to be ‘The Only Way is Essex: Elizabeth I’s Tempestuous Toyboy’ … you just know with a title like that it’s a chapter you’re going to enjoy!

I’ve always been slightly apprehensive reading about the Tudors after some of the books we were forced to read at school but this was an enjoyable read and I highly recommended!

Overall I think if you’re a Tudor fan or not, you will enjoy this book, it has lots to offer even for those who wouldn’t normally choose to read about this area of history.

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Instagram, @historywithrosie

Are you intrigued by the more gruesome side of Tudor history? If so, House of Tudor: A Grisly History is just your cup of tea! I received my copy from @pensworldbooks a few weeks ago, and devoured the sensational, scandalous and stomach churning stories in one sitting! They really are quite irresistible!

The book covers in 45 small chapters well known Tudor tales such as Henry VIII’s obsession with the chopping block, his disgusting ulcerating leg, Catherine Howard’s licentious promiscuity that sealed her miserable fate, Amy Robsart’s mysterious death that implicated Queen Elizabeth I, and the murder of David Rizzio.

Fantastically, it also includes lesser well known grisly stories that Tudor enthusiasts can add to their repertoire. These include the terrible tale of the Charterhouse Monks, who were the first monastic victims of the Reformation and were burned at Tyburn in May 1535. Also a corker for those with the stomach for it is Katherine of Aragon’s wish to send Henry VIII the head of James IV, who had been killed at the Battle of Flodden!

The book was also great for debunking several myths that have for a long time been perpetuated in popular history, such as the notion that Catherine Parr’s only role as Henry’s 6th wife was to tend to his ulcerating leg as nursemaid. Heaven forbid she might be a woman of education! The book falls short at Mary I though, who sadly is still cast as a bloody tyrant. Yes she burnt 280 Protestants, but Elizabeth I had 800 Catholic Rebels executed in the wake of the Northern Rebellion, and at least 183 Catholics hung, drawn, and quartered. The scholarship on this has gone further than the book suggests!

The book is extremely accessible and digestible, and you’ll whizz through it in no time I promise! And what is more, you’ll be hoping there’s a follow up!

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Instagram, @thehistorygal

In his new book ‘House of Tudor: A Grisly History’, Mickey Mayhew writes about some of the most gruesome events from the Tudor period in 45 chapters. I can’t get enough of the Tudors, so I was very excited to read this book and it certainly did not disappoint!
The author tells us about about some of the most horrific events of the Tudor timeline, such as horrendous ailments and mental illness, execution, torture, and murder. Mayhew also dispels some of the most popular Tudor myths, by using TV and novels as examples. I thought this was a great idea for those readers less familiar with the period, who may have previously believed some of these scenes from films/novels as being fact.
House of Tudor is easy to understand and gets straight to the point. I liked Mayhew’s witty writing style - which made me laugh on more than one occasion - it helped to make the book accessible and fun to read. Because it is written in sections, it is perfect if you prefer to dip in and out of your books.
I really enjoyed reading House of Tudor and highly recommend it. It would make the ideal gift for a Tudor lover, or someone newly interested in the dynasty. And, let’s face it, we’re all secretly interested in the more macabre side of history!

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Instagram, @historyart10

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know how much I love the more grisly side of history, so this book was right up my alley. Mayhew shines a light on subjects not often written about in Tudor history - mental illness, miscarriage, torture, even pus-filled abscesses, and offers us a glimpse into the gruesome underbelly of the Tudor world.

Each chapter of the book (all 45 of them!) cover a different topic, from licentious sex to decapitated heads (and there are a lot of them!). But don’t be put off by the number of chapters - each one is succinct and easy to follow, so whether you’re a Tudor expert or a casual reader you’ll be able to follow the book and it’s subjects with ease.

Mayhew’s writing is informed, well-paced and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Mary I’s phantom pregnancies, and of Catherine Howard’s sensational sex life - there really is a chapter to interest everyone.

This is a book I will definitely return to time after time. I encourage the Tudor lovers, enjoyers of the macabre and casual readers among you to read this book - you will not be disappointed.

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Instagram, @bethshistoricalblog

I loved the bite-sized chapters, so you could read a couple before bed, or on the train between stops. The book itself had a lot of facts I didn’t know too much about, for example the murder of Rizzio under Mary Queen of Scots.

There are a number of references to TV shows and films, usually to compare the theatrical imagining of scenes with how they happened in real life - and I think if you’re a fan of the Tudors you’ll find this book an entertaining read.

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Instagram, @lovebritishhistorypics

The fans of Tudor period drama will find this volume a delightful read as myths are busted and various theories confirmed or denied. If you loved ‘The Tudors’ (2007-2011), ‘Elizabeth’ (1998), ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ (2007) or ‘Reign’ (2013-2017), then this is definitely the book for you. A very enjoyable read!

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Instagram, @natalieisahistorybuff

Anyone who knows me well knows that the Tudors is a period of history that I could never ever read enough on. It’s rare then to find a totally unique viewpoint on the period but this book offered me that and more.

I devoured this book in a day, loving the short, sharp chapters and the history lessons to boot. I know a lot about Henry VIII and his wives but it was so interesting to learn more about Catherine de Medici and Mary Queen of Scots. The Rizzio murder always makes my skin prickle! Be warned, this book isn’t for the faint hearted, it’s grisly in parts but for me that’s more manageable than watching The Tudors on the TV! A brilliant eye opener to another aspect of one of the most interesting periods of our history.

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Instagram, @when_cathy_met_heathcliff

We all know the history of Henry VIII and his six wives, most of us remember the rhyme "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived." And we're all pretty in the loop about how savage the Tudors could be. But what @mickeymayhew does here is spins those well known facts into a rogues gallery of offenders, none of which shied away from foul play and downright torturous antics, throw in oodles of grisly nastiness and this book had my gruesome interest piqued.

The well crafted timeline begins with Henry VIII becoming King of England and leads you right the way through to the death of Elizabeth I and we learn most of the detail about the Tudor reign through their truly disgusting and icky treatment of each other. Usually through all kinds of torture and death that included burning in vats of boiling oil, being stretched on the rack until a victims joints popped out, burning at the stake, hangings, dismemberment and decapitation. Then we have the diseases that were rife at that time like smallpox, consumption and the sweating sickness. All of these were spun into a carefully curated tale of what I would call 'anything goes.' Imagine having the power to throw someone in prison for a rumour with no supporting evidence then disposing of them in some grotesque manner for a baying crowd to watch?? It's crazy!

One section I loved was the additional information about Mary Queen Of Scots, and the tangled web of deceit she found herself caught up in after continually trusting the wrong people. I didn't know much about this part of her story so I learnt a lot. I also loved the references to The Tudors TV show, I am a big fan of the series so understanding where they got things right historically and parts that were flowered up for the TV was so interesting.

I really enjoyed this grisly take on Tudor history. All the injuries, maladies, infections, executions and torture were carefully woven into a thoroughly entertaining and engaging page turner.

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Instagram, @thebookgeekboutique

This is a fantastic addition to my Tudor bookcase and one that I will certainly come back to when working on my own writing! It really does cover so many different things that there will be something for everyone whatever your interests are; political, personal, medical, or death. A brilliant gory discourse on my favourite period of history!

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Instagram, @tudorblogger

This book follows the House of Tudor dynasty but we have just the grisly bits, kind of like the grown-up version of Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories. The book is split into 45 chapters and starts with the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, the following chapters are then titled along the lines of The Terrible Death of a Tudor Traitor, Hacking the Head of Margaret Pole, Henry VIII Horrible Leg, The Rough Wooings of Mary Queen of Scots and The Babington Plot: Tudor Honey Traps to name a few. Now the book is very well written and I loved the fact that the chapters were short, punchy and to the point. After all, this was about the best bits of Tudor history.

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The History Fella

‘House of Tudor: A Grisly History’ certainly lives up to its title. Forty-five historical events are covered including battles, sickness, executions and the horrors of everyday life. The grisly is balanced by the author’s approach with some humour amongst the horror.

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Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a nice short read that I would recommend as a beginners' guide to the House of Tudor. Each chapter shines a light on a different Tudor but only runs about two to three pages. This is refreshing if you don't want to get too bogged down into the deep history of the English. This is more of almost a guide to find the Tudor you are most interested in and than research them even more. Also, it is good for breaking a reading slump because of it's small size and short chapters.

NetGalley, Haley Crenshaw

This is a fantastic addition to my Tudor bookcase and one that I will certainly come back to when working on my own writing! It really does cover so many different things that there will be something for everyone whatever your interests are; political, personal, medical, or death.

Read the full review here

Tudor Blogger

If I had to categorize the type of person who this book is aimed at, it would be someone who thought all history books are dry and stodgy, guaranteed to put one to sleep. Author Mickey Mayhew has made sure this book is anything but. His tongue-in-cheek style is present from beginning to end, interlaced with a factual history of the time of the Tudors.

The main figures are here, Henry VIII and Mary Queen of Scots, and the lesser known are also given time at the head of the table. Along the way, all the plans and plots are laid out for us to learn and the title’s promise is fulfilled. Yes, there are grisly moments in history, and the Tudors were present for a number of them.

This is an enjoyable book, both delightful and insightful. This my first read into enemy territory (yes, Tudor fanatics, I would have been carrying a Plantagenet banner) and it has interested me enough to pursue further reading of some of those detailed in Mr. Mayhew’s book. Highly recommended. Four-and-a-half stars.

NetGalley, Dee Arr

The author takes us on a chronological history tour of forty-five cut throat events in Tudor history. The whole period is covered, starting with the death of Richard lll in 1485, which marked the beginning of the Tudor dynasty. The Tudor period ends in 1603, with the death of Elizabeth l and the rise of the Stuarts.

It is helpful to have each event discussed in short chapters. This makes the book easy to pick up and leave if time is limited. Although most events are well known, for example the death of Jane Seymour twelve days after she gave birth, the details of this event and childbirth in the Tudor period is fascinating.

The author clearly knows his Tudor history and explains events very clearly. The chapter on the Pilgrimage of grace helped me understand the religious tensions surrounding the deaths of many at that time who professed Catholicism as their true faith.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter about Catherine Howard and the royal intrigues and schemes within the court.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the stories of the Tudor period and who enjoys a light read with clear facts.

Alison Wall - Local history/ nursing and public health groups

If you are a fan of Tudor England and all the family drama, this book is for you! This book is quick and dirty, serving up the scandals and butchery of the Tudor reign. This isn’t a chronological treatise of the monarchs, it really is just a cutting of atrocities. And boy are there ever atrocities! Short and to the point, this book lets you have all the murderous, sinful details, mostly focusing on Henry VIII. (Um, because who is actually worse than him?)

NetGalley, Nikki Gursky

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I have read much about the Tudor period and still found information here that I did not know. This is a famous/infamous period in English history and many books have been written about it but this was centering on the more bizarre and gruesome facts that have not been so well documented before. I loved the short chapters which gave enough information about each incident and still left me room to investigate further in places.
I am not a history buff but this is a period that I have read much about and I still managed to find lots of information that I was unaware of in this book.
A great read.

NetGalley, Sandra Miller

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I enjoy history and especially English history with bonus engagement on my part for late medieval to the early modern periods. This selection hit a lot of high points for me. The author has done a good job of selecting the mildly to moderately salacious bits which we never get to read about in school history classes. It's arranged thematically and roughly chronologically in chapters, each of which tell a particular bit of the history of the Tudors during and after their dynastic reign of more than 100 years. Despite their fame and relative wealth, their lives were most often bloody and short, often because of intolerance, war, political infighting, and/or disease.

This is a layman accessible and eminently readable book.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This period of history is my favourite of all time, there’s just something about the tudors which is absolutely fascinating and I can’t get enough. This book is amazing and continues beyond king Henry the eighths reign which a lot of the books out there on this subject don’t cover, I learned from this book in more ways than one.

NetGalley, Aisha Bari

The book was very informational and highly entertaining to read through. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading about English history or who is fascinated with the Tudors. Overall, I would give this book a four out of five stars.

NetGalley, Marissa Brady

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a lover of History. This book was quite the read especially knowing more things about the House of Tudor and England under the Tudors.
I loved reading this book and would recommend this to anyone looking for their next read.

NetGalley, Dee A.

As featured in

The Bookseller

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book. Being an avid Tudor reader, some of the information I already knew. However I was pleasant surprised, that some I did not which doesn't happen very often.

NetGalley, Heather Temple

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you’re a fan of the gory and blood lusty Tudors , you’re bound to love this.
We know much of HenryVIII and the way he disposed of his wives, in this book we learn the other ways people in the Tudor period were dispatched. Often cruel long drawn out deaths, it’s hard to imagine someone could endure their demise in such manners!
I really liked this book, it’s well sourced and makes an easy if disgusting compelling read! Its brilliantly done.

NetGalley, Heidi Mccallum

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Death comes to us all but sometimes it is hastened along. In the times of the Tudors (1453-1603) particularly barbaric methods of torture to extract information (true or false) or recant were used. Executions were so despicable, so appalling it just doesn't seem possible human beings implemented them. Royalty and upper crust people were not exempt, though it did help to have money to bring about death more quickly (possibly, depending on the skills of the executioner). In the House of Tudor Mickey Mayhew describes in painstaking detail what society was like and the various deaths of several people, often at the hands of others or by causes such as childbirth and disease.

The author injects wit into what is a morbid subject. He refers to TV and movie portrayals of people mentioned and includes vivid illustrations. Starting with the Battle of Bosworth, he writes about the death of Richard III, discusses charnel pits, the fate of traitors (hung, drawn and quartered with...extras), boiling to death of poisoners, minute details of the rack and "Scavenger's daughter", botched deaths such as Margaret Pole's hacking, falconers sewing falcons' eyes shut, Margaret Clitherow's horrific ordeal with rocks and so much more. He also explains the reasoning for not retaining keepsakes of those killed and the encouragement of the public to witness such atrocities.

Readers of the Tudor era ought to add this book to their list. Just know that descriptions are graphic and not for everyone. From historical and societal perspectives it is fascinating and informative.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a total history nerd and I love hearing the more gruesome tales from history. So the house of tudor was such a fun book for me. I don't recommend reading it while you're eating or drinking anything or maybe right before you go to bed but I highly recommend you reading it!

NetGalley, Kate Humphrey

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really loved this book though what that says about me I am not sure. It is Horrible Histories for grownups. Despite its often gory and gruesome accounts of the lives and deaths of some of the more famous Tudors, it was gripping and readable... it was good humored and entertaining and highly recommended.

NetGalley, Sue Burnside

This book was such an engaging read! Typically, I read the glittering and illustrative side of the Tudor history but this offered a bit darker take on many well known historical figures and stories I have previously read. There was just SO MUCH DRAMA and SO MUCH DARKNESS in the lives these people had to endure. I highly recommend this as I feel it offers balance to the typical fantasy type reads where we all imagine our lives transported back to a much earlier time. Was I learning while I read? Of course! However, the style in which this is written is appealing and engaging and it tricked me into retaining many new facts and ideas while I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience. I recommend this very much and hope to see more books of this nature in the future!

NetGalley, Larinda Agee

The author did a great job using accessible language for those new to Tudor history. It was inviting and peppered in different pop culture references for those wanting to learn more with film, book, and television.

I really enjoyed this book.

NetGalley, Julie Herringa Cirone

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very well-researched book, showing the reader the reverse side of the Tudor coin. Instead of jewelry, masques and feasts, we are presented with the nastier side of life in sixteenth-century England. Unpleasant natural events such as sweating sickness, alcoholism, miscarriages, death in childbirth, and immoral liaisons are only part of a larger picture filled with torture, executions, poisonings, and warfare. Violence and rivalry are joint rulers despite the lavishness of the court, This book is full of all the grisly, horrid details.. although, on a lighter note, written with a sense of humour.


I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Tudor and Mary Queen of Scot's history.

NetGalley, Zoe Pollock

House of Tudor is exceptionally interesting as a layout of major ‘dark’ events during the reign of the Tudors.

NetGalley, Ellysa Hermanson

Even for someone who has read a lot of various Tudor books, this one still has a lot to offer. The author uses humour to tell the Tudor story and give it a new lease on life. I got a kick out of this book, it is factual history, but told in such a way that it makes you forget you are learning something.

If you enjoy lighter history books without all of the lengthy scholarly discourse, this would be a perfect book to choose. I thought the author did a good job of keeping up with the theme of the book and not getting sidetracked. I found myself laughing in some spots and cringing in others, but enjoying the read the entire time. It also made me grateful, Once more; that I am not a woman in Tudor times. Or a priest. Or anyone else, to be honest.

This book is not extremely long, so it would be great for an afternoon escape. I would recommend it to anyone with a curiosity about the stranger side of royal history.

NetGalley, Ionia Froment

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Modern soap operas have nothing on life in Tudor England. Neither do horror movies. Subtitled A Grisly History, House of Tudor describes the darker details of life under the Tudors. Botched beheadings, disease, poison (intentional and unintentional), oozing wounds, torture, burning at the stake - it’s all here and it is fascinating. From the mystery of the princes in the Tower of London to the lonely death of Queen Elizabeth l, author Mickey Mayhew tells the stories behind historic facts. For instance, Henry Vlll injured his leg in a joust and reinjured it several years later. The suppurating wound caused intense pain. But the pain also led to a personality change that turned him into a mean, angry, paranoid ruler. Elizabeth l wore makeup whitened with lead but she also painted blue lines on her forehead to mimic actual veins. One of the princes In the Tower may have been spirited away and raised in a distant village. The House of Tudor is full of intriguing stories like this and is a 5 star enjoyable read for all lovers of English history.

NetGalley, Kathleen Hughes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The book is brilliant. Informative and to the point. The writing is concise and enjoyable. One thing I have found with some reference and history books is that you get an air of almost pretentiousness (not all of course but some) and this is not the case with Mayhew. We certainly are aware that Mayhew is an authority on the subject. I was able to finish this in two sittings and have since gone back to it several times. It is definitely a must read for those interested in or specialising in the Tudor and Renaissance period who want an accessible and in depth history of the darker aspects of the period, a refreshing look in and of itself.

NetGalley, Siobhain McCormick

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I truly enjoyed reading this book. I am glad that I toured the Tower of London before reading it though because now I would visualize exactly what took place there making it so real!

Having read over 30 different novels on the history of the Tudors, I was eager to read Mayhew's book which delves into the more gruesome aspects of that time period. The book was very interesting to read although the distinct description of beheadings, burnings, and drawing and quartering of bodies did cause me to flinch occasionally.

House of Tudors gives us a behind the scenes look at the ghastly ways in which the criminals and those in court were "brought to justice." And yet the townsfolk found it quite entertaining!
" Mass executions meant a whole day out for all the family, and people would arrive early or even sleep out overnight in order to get the best positions. There would be stalls set up selling fruit and drinks......"

If you have any interest in the Tudors or medieval history, you'll want to grab this fact filled book.

NetGalley, Dona Burke

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The stories of the various monarchs and the political dealings and double crosses will keep you entertained and intrigued. If you are interested in this period of time and the individuals involved, this is a must read!

NetGalley, Ron Baumer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is subtitled "A Grisly History" and that is the perfect description! Do not read if you have a weak stomach.

When you think about the Tudors, the beheadings of Henry VIII's wives quickly come to mind. But there's so much more than that. This presents 45 chapters ranging from Richard III's death all the way through Elizabeth I. The stories cover gruesome events like executions (including Anne Boleyn and so much more), torture, animal cruelty, as well as just the health risks of living in that timeframe, such as disease or childbirth.

I found this absolutely fascinating, and the short chapters were easy to digest and get through. I love learning about the Tudor era, and I also love gory horror, so this was really the perfect blend for me!

I also really liked how popular myths or pop culture interpretations were dispelled throughout, putting into context why the book Wolf Hall or the show The Tudors might choose a certain interpretation, even if it's likely inaccurate (or just unknown.) Having read or seen most of the references in the book, I really enjoyed getting that extra context. If you haven't seen/read those, the references are not excessive, so you can easily skip those sentences.

This does assume some knowledge of the Tudor era and the key players. There are some short explanations as to who people are, but if you don't have that baseline knowledge, it might be hard to follow.

But if you're already familiar with the timeframe, and are interested in a somewhat morbid view, this is a great book to pick up!

NetGalley, Karen Dowling

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wildly Entertaining! If you are a Tudor or Stuart fan, do not miss this book. Put it on your list and you will not be disappointed. Told in 45 chapters of just the right amount of detail, I was surprised how much "truth" I found to be false and how much I didn't know of certain events that I thought I was pretty educated about. The author does a great job of detailing without it being dry and with a sense of humor where appropriate. I loved this book! And if this book wasn't great enough - the author has added some amazing pictures at the end.

NetGalley, Christine Cazeneuve

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Peek into the lives of the Tudors and their connections throughout Europe. Author Mickey Mayhew sheds light on what makes the Tudors so fascinating by describing medicine of the time, plots and counterplots, power struggles, torture, past times, the splintering of Europe and England through the Reformation and subsequent split off of the Church of England, and so much more. Chapters are short and focus on a single character and their role in all the squabbles and drama. Connections and comparisons are made between actual history and many of the popular books, TV series, and movies that have centered around this family dynasty. Detailed without getting into gore, this felt akin to a historically accurate Grimm's Fairytales read to me (though, not always with a happy ending for those involved). Sources are carefully cited and speculation (whether of the author or other persons) is laid bare as purely that. A great read for those who need a quick read (thanks to the concentrated chapters) or those who have been pulled into one of the many series/movies and want to check the veracity of these renderings. Bibliography, index, and assortment of pictures and paintings are included at the end of this title.

NetGalley, Katherine Wehrle

Mayhew offers us the history of the Tudors, told in 45 “episodes” spanning the death of Richard III through the death of Elizabeth I. Rather than solely focusing on Henry VIII and his wives or the saga of Mary Stuart’s reign and downfall, the events are woven together with a nod to pop culture references and some bits of humor sprinkled throughout.

NetGalley, Shannon Jones

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

While I was reading this book, I was thinking of my university years, when I was working as a tour guide in an imperial palace in Vienna, Austria. Back then, I would have killed for a book like this one (albeit on the Hapsburgs rather than the Tudors, of course), full of intriguing, sometimes touching, sometimes gruesome historical anecdotes with which to sprinkle my guided tours. That means, yes, this was an awesome read, both instructive AND entertaining. The author understands perfectly well that the way to captivate an audience is to treat history like a story, i.e. to “spin a good yarn”, the only (and biggest) difference being that here it’s a yarn based on historical data and facts insomuch as we have them.

If you are looking for a full-scale history of the riveting Tudor-saga, you might be disappointed. This is more a collection of details, but how satisfying it was! Compendiums like this one have the advantage to be readable by amateur Tudor-istas as well as by more enlightened Tudor-ologists, who already know the basic facts and just want to learn a few more tales of those characters and their times. Mickey Mayhew delivers, and he especially delivers those tasty morsels and juicy bits we all, let’s be honest, love to read.

Cherry on the cake, Mr Mayhew is a good writer, too. He knows how to construct his anecdotes, knows how to add atmosphere and paint a vivid picture of those times. He does so in a slightly tongue-in-cheek-y tone that I really appreciated—nothing is duller, I’m afraid, than historians who take themselves and their topics too seriously. Yes, history and historical research should be DONE with a high degree of seriousness; it’s just that that seriousness doesn’t necessarily need to be reflected in history books, in my humble opinion.

So, an interesting book, a perfect read (especially during these cold, windy November nights), which I recommend.

NetGalley, Dieter Moitzi

This book covers the terrible treatment suffered by many, many people during all of the reigns of Henry, Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. It also includes various facts from regions of other sovereigns... fascinating.

NetGalley, Joyce Fox

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book get a solid 5 star stars from me. If you like reading about the history of this time , you will enjoy reading the guts ( pun intended ) of the backstory to the ones you probably have already heard about .
Well researched via a plethora of well known Tudor loving authors , Hillary Mantel , Philippa Gregory etc.
A great read.

NetGalley, Angela Thompson

“In accordance with the law and having been found guilty of the crime of poisoning, Richard Roose was boiled to death…”

Let’s just say I am grateful I didn’t live in Tudor times!

This is the perfect book to read if you enjoy reading about the Tudors, it’s also great if you want to read about crime, torture, punishment and death.

I thoroughly enjoyed this gem of a book! It was truly fascinating.

This has spurred a love affair with this piece of history and I cannot wait to read more on this topic - fiction and non-fiction.

Thank you Pen & Sword for gifting me with this book, one of my favourites and it will take place on my bookshelf proudly :)

Georgi Lvs Books !!

About Mickey Mayhew

Lifelong Londoner Mickey Mayhew has a PhD concerning the online cult surrounding the tragic queens Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots. He is co-author of three books relating to Jack the Ripper, published by The History Press. His first non-fiction work, The Little Book of Mary Queen of Scots, was also published by The History Press in January 2015; I Love the Tudors, by Pitkin Publishing, arrived in 2016. He has a semi-regular column in the journal of The Whitechapel Society and was previously a freelance film and theatre reviewer for various London lifestyle magazines. Through 2018/2020 he worked as an assistant researcher on several research projects for London South Bank University. Rasputin and his Russian Queen is his third book for Pen and Sword, following the release of House of Tudor and Imprisoning Mary Queen of Scots.

Henry VIII is crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey, London

24th June 1509

Henry was the second Tudor monarch after his father, Henry VII. During his forty-year reign he led England through a series of intense changes, most notably the English Reformation, England's separation from the Roman Catholic Church.

The Death of Anne Boleyn

19th May 1536

Anne Boleyn, second wife of English King Henry VIII, is beheaded at the Tower of London on charges of adultery, incest and treason.

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