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Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England (ePub)

British History P&S History Social History Tudors & Stuarts

By Carol McGrath
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Sex and Sexuality
File Size: 29.7 MB (.epub)
Pages: 176
ISBN: 9781526769190
eBook Released: 14th June 2022

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£8.99 Print price £20.00

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In the press!

'I thoroughly enjoyed Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England.  A terrific, informative read for the armchair historian. A fascinating read, packed with juicy details.' - Elizabeth Chadwick

As featured by the Daily Mail'Scandalous stories of love and sex in Tudor England'.

 

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The Tudor period has long gripped our imaginations. Because we have consumed so many costume dramas on TV and film, read so many histories, factual or romanticised, we think we know how this society operated. We know they ‘did’ romance but how did they do sex?

In this affectionate, informative and fascinating look at sex and sexuality in Tudor times, author Carol McGrath peeks beneath the bedsheets of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century England to offer a genuine understanding of the romantic and sexual habits of our Tudor ancestors.

Find out the truth about ‘swiving’, ‘bawds’, ‘shaking the sheets’ and ‘the deed of darkness'. Discover the infamous indiscretions and scandals, feast day rituals, the Southwark Stews, and even city streets whose names indicated their use for sexual pleasure. Explore Tudor fashion: the codpiece, slashed hose and doublets, women’s layered dressing with partlets, overgowns and stomachers laced tightly in place. What was the Church view on morality, witchcraft and the female body? On which days could married couples indulge in sex and why? How were same sex relationships perceived? How common was adultery? How did they deal with contraception and how did Tudors attempt to cure venereal disease? And how did people bend and ignore all these rules?

Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England was an interesting read of a time period that was fascinating and complex. And it explained the real history in a very readable form with lots of details.

NetGalley, Terri Brisbin

If you're a fan of the Tudor period, your really going to enjoy this book but I also think non-Tudor fans would get much enjoyment out of this book too. It was actually a good read because it was an easy read and very well written, when you think there probably wasn’t much source material to rely on, the author Carol McGrath has done a good job.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A thorough exploration of what can be known about love, romance, and sexuality in the days of Henry VII and VIII of England: the end of the 15th and first half of the 16th centuries.

Yes, of course, there's the court drama of Henry VIII. But it was also very much a transitional time from the medieval consensus to the early modern way of thinking and acting. The author traces such things in terms of sexual behaviors, adultery, romance, childbearing, diseases, and the like.

There's not as many sources as one might imagine or hope, but the author does well with what has been maintained in her conversation. Worthy of consideration if interested in the topic.

NetGalley, Ethan Longhenry

Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England by Carol McGrath is a short and fascinating book. I enjoyed it a lot and in its short chapters it touches on all sort of topics, from hair removal, which was pretty gruesome both in how it was done and the reason for hair removal, to how people dress. For me this is a must read book if you are interested in Tudor history. I should point out that McGrath covers the period from 1485 to 1558 and not the Elizabethan period, which I think was the best way to cover the period. One of the other topics described in the book was about courtly love and that was very interesting too, especially as the author decided to add short passages from poems, which was really nice to read.

Read the full review here

Coffee and Books

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was such a great book!! I normally read fiction, but I was so intrigued by this non-fiction book. I love the Tudor England time period in historical fiction books, so this was a great supplement to all the books I read. I learned a lot from this and found out some interesting and surprising things. If you're interested in this time period at all I definitely recommend!

NetGalley, Logan Romjue

If asked why the Tudor era holds such a fascination for readers, this one included, I would be hard put to come up with an answer. Maybe it’s the still scandalous-sounding fact of Henry VIII’s six wives and their cruel treatment, or more broadly the fascinating times themselves, that in-between period where the Middle Ages flowed into the Renaissance and thus what historians call Modern Times. Whatever the reasons, add the topic of sex and sexuality, and you get an attention-grabbing title for sure.
As expected and hoped, this book turned out to be a fairly interesting read, too. Fortunately not the steamy, gossipy, bawdy text one could fear if it had been written by some less serious-minded author, but a historical look on the customs and mores of the times as far as they can be reconstructed. Of course, the emphasis lies on written sources, which as such must always be treated with a pinch of salt, which Carol McGrath does very skilfully. She’s also a good writer, who takes care not to drown her readers in too many dry details, too many unexplained quotes, or unexpected non sequiturs. Her style is fluid, sometimes with wry humour and a wink, and as an easily readable introduction into the topic, her book therefore turned out to be pleasant and entertaining as well as informative.
The book focuses mostly on the reigns of the two Tudor Henrys, VII and VIII, as well as Edward VI and Mary I... All in all, the balance between information and entertainment I normally seek in history books was perfectly maintained throughout this one.

NetGalley, Dieter Moitzi

Umm....wow....who knew?! I was blown away with the ease of reading such an informative, intriguing and, clearly well-researched story. I am never sure when I take on a book of this nature in the way the content will be delivered in terms of clarity, interest, and complexity. I am so happy to share that this book reads easily, is almost transporting with the clarity of which such taboo and unfamiliar topics are explained, descriptively illustrated and brought to life. I really enjoyed this and am now more than intrigued by the topics in general! I recommend this to the fullest, and without reservation.

NetGalley, Larinda Agee

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Do yourselves a favor if you are a fan of the Tudor era, the House of Tudor, or even just the Renaissance period in general, read this book as soon as you can.

SEX AND SEXUALITY IN TUDOR ENGLAND had some info I already knew about, but a lot about the sexual norms and customs associated with Europe during this time period, but it also taught me a few things and it may have reignited the urge to write Tudor-era fiction. McGrath was a joy to read. Her prose was fun and informative, and it never really felt like you were reading history. It was a stark reminder that we are the same even centuries later.

Again, do yourselves a favor and read this really enjoyable book!

NetGalley, Kelsey Fischer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England is an exploration of morality and the mores in one of the most popular and widely fictionalised period of British history. In this brilliant expose, Carol McGrath, historian and an acclaimed historical fiction author, dives under the bedsheets of Tudor lovers, joins in rowdy festivities, visits brothels, peeks into Henry VIII’s marital and extra-marital beds, learns about inventive if not quite effective contraception methods, dances, flirts and recites romantic poetry. She takes us from the highest echelons of Tudor society to the lowest, talking about the love life of Henry VIII and his highborn mistresses, his daughter, the virgin queen Elizabeth I, but also prostitutes, witches and wenches.
McGrath presents a full and comprehensive picture of Tudor sexuality, matrimony, childbirth, fashion, beliefs and rituals. She puts it into the context of religion, customs, philosophy and arts. She makes interesting links to the medieval, catholic era that preceded the Tudors, and contrasts it with the Protestantism and puritanism of the sixteenth century. She embeds the Tudors in the wider European context of the flourishing renaissance awakening. She makes reference to what came next.
Sex and Sexuality is written in easy flowing, accessible language. It is vivid, full of fascinating details and quotes, thoroughly researched and bristling with tasteful, dry humour. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

NetGalley, ABE Wylie

After reading a book on “sex and sexuality in Ancient Rome” and finding it utterly fascinating, I obviously had to find out about the Tudors as well and this did not disappoint!

It was so fascinating to learn about attitudes, laws, art etc. on sex during this time period. Especially as this is a mostly Christian- religious time, and attitudes are quite strict.

NetGalley, Lucy Langford

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very interesting and informative book written in a way that was easy to digest and read smoothly. If you are interested in the time period or subject matter definitely read this book!

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

I am a huge fan of the Tudor period and Tudor history has always been a passion of mine so I was delighted to be able to join this blog tour for Carol and her my review for her latest release – Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England.

I have to say that I loved the book! It was packed full of details and full of facts and answers to those questions that you have, but never really knew how to ask!

I have read a lot of books on this period over the years and I was delighted to find that this book covered such a wide range of topics within it. The book layout was great and the book was punchy to read with concise and well developed chapters – the book covers everything from courtship, pregnancy, contraception and the view of the church – it covers aristocracy and the Royals though to the poorer classes too.

It is 5 stars from me for this book without any doubt – I loved it from cover to cover – full of intrigue, facts and information you didn’t know you needed to know about – but you are even more fascinated now you do! Very highly recommended and an addictive read!

Read the full review here

Donna's Book Blog

What I did love about this book is that it fleshes out (ahem) the idea of what life might have been like at ground level in Tudor England. We know about the politics, the fashion and the posh palaces, but to grasp how everyone navigated their sex lives - and went about attracting a partner - amid the demands of the church, work and family life gives such an important perspective when studying and learning about this period. I mean, if you're going to learn about the Tudors, you need to know how they lived their every day lives, too.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the Tudor period, especially if you're into sexual, social or women's history.

Read the full review here

Love British History

I really enjoyed this book. It gives a real ground-level look at Tudor life - how they navigated sex lives amid what was expected from the church, family lives and work. I found the small details really interesting - the existence of pubic wigs, for example and the ways in which people married in the Tudor age. The book is written in a relaxed way, so it doesn't feel stuffy or academic as you read and is packed with facts.

A great look at an often forgotten aspect of Tudor life.

NetGalley, Jo Romero

As a huge fan of Tudor history this book deals with a topic no doubt many people have been wanting to know more about but were afraid to ask. Carol Mcgrath focuses primarily on the reign of Henry VIII but there are also snippets that give us an indication of how the poorer classes lived; this aspect is naturally less well-documented than the lives of the aristocracy. Touching on courtship rituals, the Church's stance, contraception. pregnancy and prostitution, this book covers just bout everything you ever wanted to know about Tudor sex and sexuality - and perhaps a few things you wish you hadn't discovered. A fascinating and engrossing read.

Read the full review and author guest post here

All Things Bookie

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a huge fan of Tudor history this book deals with a topic no doubt many people have been wanting to know more about but were afraid to ask. Carol Mcgrath focuses primarily on the reign of Henry VIII but there are also snippets that give us an indication of how the poorer classes lived; this aspect is naturally less well-documented than the lives of the aristocracy. Touching on courtship rituals, the Church's stance, contraception. pregnancy and prostitution, this book covers just bout everything you ever wanted to know about Tudor sex and sexuality - and perhaps a few things you wish you hadn't discovered. A fascinating and engrossing read.

NetGalley, Julie Ryan

This was a different read for me as I usually tend towards more biographies in the Tudor era. However, this looked fascinating. It's a unique look into how early modern sexuality is both similar and yet very different from our modern viewpoint. I enjoyed that I continue to learn more about the way people lived and not just who lived. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were not the only people living in the 16th century. It is a great look into a very adult topic.

NetGalley, Nicholaus Cummins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Facts and folklore abound in this fascinating, well-researched book. It gives us a glimpse into another side of Tudor England. Church laws and sacred promises lie in the background of what really went on in the day to day lives of the wealthy and the needy. A great read including chapters on hygiene, childbirth, the stews, art, dress, and courting. Then, as now, we are people, looking for someone ..

NetGalley, LOIS ELIYAHU

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Loved this saucy read. The Tudor period is the best in all of history and this book was shocking and funny in more ways than one.

NetGalley, Aisha Bari

It was perfect timing that I happened to start reading this while also binging the White Queen and White Princess. My mindset was ready for digesting some Tudor history. This was fast read that gave me some great context for other Tudor-based media I consume, and I learned a ton of fun facts my partner is less-than-enthusiastic to hear!... Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England was written in a really approachable way. It's not overly technical, doesn't treat its audience like an expert or a novice, and has some great wry humor.

NetGalley, DANIELLE FRITZ

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What an incredible and well-researched book on sex and sexuality in the Tudor Era. Author Carol McGrath does a wonderful job at providing detailed and entertaining chapters on this subject. If you have ever been curious about attraction, marriage, pregnancy and childbirth, general sexuality and it's influence in poetry, art, and even witchcraft during the Tudor Era... I highly recommend this book!
I learned quite a bit about how sex was deeply rooted and also controlled by the church and influenced by medieval beliefs during this time period. It's fascinating how many rituals and practices were utilized within sexual intercourse, marriage, relationships and childbirth, etc.
An engrossing and detailed account with use of well-founded sources, this book will leave you intrigued and with a plethora of interesting facts and knowledge of sex in the Tudor Era.

NetGalley, Victoria Merritt

Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England by Carol McGrath isn’t the normal fiction or poetry I pick up, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this book. I enjoyed learning about the Tudor time period and customs. I’m a trivia buff and can’t wait to bust out my new knowledge of courtly love!

NetGalley, Elizabeth Plunkett

An interesting and well researched history book, I found it entertaining and informative.
Tudor England is a fascinating time, a time of changes and revolution.
The author analyses the different aspects of the sexual life for both upper and lower class... Recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

I enjoyed this very much. It didn't spend too long on any one topic thus keeping my interest. There were lots of interesting little asides and a surprisingly varied wealth of knowledge.

NetGalley, Victoria Matthews

This is a well-written and informative book on the more private moments in Tudor history. They played a dynamic role in our understanding of the Tudors. It is educational, and a fun read for any fan of the Tudor dynasty. If you want to learn more about the more intimate side of the Tudor dynasty, I highly recommend you read “Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England” by Carol McGrath.

NetGalley, Heidi Malagisi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a huge history fan and love finding out more about history in particular the Tudor period. So when I saw this title I thought it sounded like an interesting angle to view the history from. Also it would be interesting to see if females were allowed to enjoy themselves back then or if they did just have to "think of England" like we are lead to believe.
So, I found the book well wrote and nicely laid out and a good interesting read. Recommend.

NetGalley, Hayley Graham

Ever since I read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory in middle school, I have been deeply obsessed with all things having to do with the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII. The sex, the scandal, the beheadings - a veritable devil's playground, if the countless movies and TV shows have anything to say about it.

And yet, it's no wonder the sneaky sex-capades come across as so exciting - there were so many rules against it! I mean, come on, nothing is more thrilling than breaking the rules. Carol McGrath does a marvelous job illustrating those rules and how all things sex were perceived during that time.

Of course, most of those rules are concerning when you can and can't have sex (especially when you can't). For instance, sex was forbidden on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays. So explain to me, exactly, how the people of Tudor England fought off the Monday blues without a little nooky!? Oh, also - you weren't allowed to have sex naked and only in missionary! So basically, no one was allowed to have any fun at all - unless you're the king, of course.

That, my friends, is just the tippy tip of the iceberg. McGrath covers numerous sexually related topics, from witchcraft to naughty words. Did you know that "Cock" is a euphemism for God or that to "Die" can mean having an orgasm? I sure as hell didn't. But I do now, and I fully plan on adding everything I've learned to my mental lexicon.

It takes quite a bit for me to enjoy a work of non-fiction, but this one was a titillating mix of being both entertaining as well as informative. It's a quick read that's well written, so give it a chance if you need a brain break from the world of fiction! I assure you, real life (historical life, especially) can be so melodramatic, you'd think it was made up anyways.

NetGalley, Sarah Khawaja

Peek behind the bedroom door at Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England.

England’s King Henry the VIII is known for his voracious appetites—both for food and women. He created an entirely new religion just so he could dump his first wife! Later, he realized it was easier to just execute them. With a king like that, how did the rest of England behave? The answer was wildly different from the mores and manners of today. Engagements were binding contracts. A public bedding ceremony was held for highborn couples. While virginity was a good way to ensure the groom was raising his own children in those pre-DNA testing days, 30% of English brides gave birth within eight months of their marriage.

In addition to the love and marriage practices of the time, the book also covers medicine, birth control, church, fashion, arts, witchcraft, and the naughty vocabulary of the time. It has extensive endnotes and a bibliography for further study.

Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England is an intriguing look back. It made me grateful to be living in the present. This book would be an excellent reference for historical fiction authors too. 4 stars!

NetGalley, Diane Hernandez

Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England is an entertaining and informative book about love, lust, sex, marriage, childbirth, sex work, witchcraft, and religion in the famous time period.

I really enjoyed this book! I'm pretty familiar with the Tudor era and loved seeing it revisited in this light. I felt like this book had a good balance of covering the well-known monarchy and the common people, as the way that these groups approached sex and areas related to sex in different ways. I think that sometimes I read about the Tudor monarchy and forget that other people existed. I enjoyed seeing how things were different depending on class and rank!

The author also explored less well documented identities, such as same sex relationships and cross dressing. I was surprised that there weren't more historical documents to support these identities, but it definitely makes sense as these relationships were illegal and very taboo at the time. I felt like McGrath did a great job with the information that was available and provided some context without getting into pure conjecture as I think many other authors have.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book if you are interested in looking at this time period in a different light!

NetGalley, Kalle N.

An interesting and entertaining addition to Pen and Sword's series on sex and sexuality across history, "Tudor England" looks at England in the reign of Henry VII and Henry VIII. Marriages, births, what was considered sexy and what wasn't, courtly love, health to make oneself sexy (bathing may have been considered dangerous but being clean and smelling good was still the way to go) are all covered here. Both the royal and high born as well as the every day lives are examined, although since more writing is left behind among the high born we do read more about the upper end of society and their views on things. The Church both before and after the Reformation plays a big role in how women are viewed and attempts at controlling sex and sexuality. We explore both 'medical' and folk remedies for infertility as well as contraceptives and the surprisingly nuanced layers that were involved to define what exactly 'being married' meant. There is, as you would expect, a lot of attention paid to Henry VIII and his wives but they are not the focus of the book by any means.

NetGalley, Anne Morgan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is both an informative and easy read, sometimes with shocking details of daily practices Tudor nobility and commoners followed. Carol McGrath is the author of many historical fictions and maybe that's why this is an easy-going and entertaining book, not a heavy non-fiction. It was a quick read and I enjoyed reading about the peculiar (and sometimes repulsing) customs and beliefs of the time.

NetGalley, Anita Salát

I’m really interested in history, and reading about times that are worse than the ones we’re in is something I find oddly comforting. Therefore, when I had an opportunity to read an advance copy of this, I did, and am glad for it. This was a really, really interesting look back and I learned a lot in my reading.

Reading this definitely makes you think about some of the happy freedoms most people enjoy - bathing frequently, and without a shirt on, the availability of birth control methods that work,

This is a fascinating look at historical misogyny, ahem, history and just how much worse things used to be.

It’s a definite recommendation for history buffs, fans of royal historical fiction centered in Tudor England, and anyone interested in well researched and factual sex/sexuality history.

NetGalley, Michelle Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The book is extremely interesting, very well written, researched, concise, systematic and interdisciplinary. The reader is aware of trends, beliefs and morality of the period. Traditions and moral attitudes inevitably evolve, but sex and sexuality remain part of what it is to be human.

Delightful and fascinating peep into Tudor's bedrooms.

NetGalley, Mana M

The Tudor period has long gripped our imaginations. Because we have consumed so many costume dramas on TV and film, read so many histories, factual or romanticised, we think we know how this society operated. We know they ‘did’ romance but how did they do sex?
Most of us know a reasonable amount of history , especially when it comes to the Tudors , but how many of us have an insight to what used to happen ' under the covers ' as it were.
An interesting book on what sex was like for those born at that time.

NetGalley, Angela Thompson

About Carol McGrath

Following a first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing from The Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast, followed by an MPhil in English from University of London. The Handfasted Wife was shortlisted for the Romantic novel of the Year. The Woman in the Shadows, a best-selling historical novel about Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of Henry VIII’s statesman Thomas Cromwell, was republished by Headline in 2020. She is writes Historical non-fiction and fiction. 

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