Tudors, the second volume in The History of England series by Peter Ackroyd, charts the Reformation of the English Church under Henry VIII and his heirs. Henry VII, who lived and died a Catholic, is only very briefly mentioned at the beginning. Actually, his death is. If you were expecting to read a “regular” biography of the Tudors, this may disappoint you. But, as the book focuses mostly on the impact the dynasty he founded had on the Church and, as a result, on society, leaving him out makes sense.
For the same reason, rather than describing all the events, big and small, that happened during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs, Ackroyd concentrates on the main ones, highlighting how they influenced the sovereigns and their religious policies. Ackroyd does a great job at describing the religious climate of Tudor England, the dissensions and rows among the clergy and the reception of the new religion laws by the populace.
If the author doesn’t really discover anything new about the Tudors, he fills the books with details about the Reformation that are left out of most books on the Tudors. Usually, biographies deal with its main events, but don’t really describe the differences of beliefs between Protestants and Catholics. Ackroyd does. He also explains all the different stages the Reformation went through, the religious policies of every Tudor monarch and their reasons for implementing them.
He doesn’t stereotype nor judges according to modern standards the Kings and Queens and their actions. He doesn’t shy away from recounting the most cruel and horrific aspects of the Reformation and the religious persecutions of the age, but helps us understand them. For the Tudors, the Reformation wasn’t simply a religious matter, but a political and dynastic one. They weren’t that interested in telling people what to believe, but were more concerned with maintaining unity and peace in their realm. In doing so, they transformed their country forever.
Not everyone finds the subject of religion fascinating or interesting. Yet, even they will enjoy this book. Ackroyd writes in an entertaining and straightforward style that makes the book a pleasure to read. It’s well-researched, but never dry and boring. It’s also easy to follow. You don’t need to have any background knowledge to read it, which makes it suitable for both academic and casual readers alike. If you’re interested in the history of the Reformation, definitely pick up this book. You won’t regret it.
Well-researched and well-written, Tudors by Peter Ackroyd charts the Reformation of the English Church under Henry VIII and his heirs. Although it doesn’t offer any groundbreaking theories, it helps us better to understand why the Tudors acted the way they did in matters of religion and how the Reformation changed their country forever.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.