By Mickey Mayhew
It’s easy to pinpoint when I begun to love the Tudors; surely I became a fan of the Tudors in school, and for years as a kid I carried around the ‘Ladybird Book of Henry VIII’ with me wherever I went. The blue and white colours of the cover appealed to my rather icy clinical aesthetic tastes, and the striking Holbein-riffed picture of Henry on the cover did the rest. Even though the child-friendly text skates neatly around issues of Anne Boleyn’s supposed incest and Jane Seymour’s tragic childbed death, the book still evokes a little smile of nostalgia for me, even now. I long ago lost that original copy – perhaps it’s buried under a mountain of old ‘Doctor Who’ paperbacks up in the loft – but I recently picked up a copy on Ebay and that now sits on my Tudor shelf alongside the countless Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser texts; oh, and a couple by yours truly, too.
It’s also fairly easy to pinpoint why as well; surely I became a fan of the Tudors because of how utterly bizarre the whole thing was; six wives, who live and die in perfect symmetry – 1 & 4 divorced, then 2 & 5 beheaded, and 3 and 6 die in childbirth, albeit 6 dies after Henry’s done for. To this day that sort of coincidence still makes me wonder whether or not the whole thing is made-up? And I mean, also, virgin queens who lock rival young beautiful queens up in a tower for the rest of their lives?! A patriarchal monarch obsessed with begetting on the kingdom a boy-king, only for – wait for the massive irony – that boy king to be a weakling who dies in his teens, and the real ruling is done by his feisty half-sisters?!? If this was a fiction pitch they’d have slung it in the slush pile by now. And don’t even get me started on Mary Queen of Scots; blowing up a husband – allegedly – in the middle of Edinburgh?! Assassination plots with ciphered messages hidden in beer barrels?! Escaping from an island in the middle of a Scottish lock by swapping places with your lady-in-waiting and then shamming everyone into thinking it’s a May Day frolic?! Please.
It’s that sort of crazy mentality I tried to bring to mind when it came to creating a 2016 version of the ‘Ladybird Book of Henry VIII’; ‘I Love the Tudors’ is a slightly irreverent chronological romp through the entire 1485 – 1603 Tudor timeline, spouting as many of those bizarre and at times frankly fantastic facts as possible, all richly illustrated with some pictures I’m really rather proud of, including a fabulous x-ray mock-up of what Anne Boleyn’s alleged sixth finger might’ve looked like. I guess my greatest hope for the book is that out there somewhere it might one day inspire another frankly sceptical little schoolboy into thinking that actually yes, this stuff might be as far-fetched as your average late-70s ‘Doctor Who’ story, but look, it really was true!!
Mickey Mayhew is a UK historical author and researcher living in London. You can find out more on his website – mickeymayhew.com – and also on Twitter @MickeyMayhew. His best-selling book ‘I Love the Tudors’ is available on Amazon and at all the usual Tudor haunts around the country; likewise for ‘The Little Book of Mary Queen of Scots’, only maybe moreso in Scotland for that one. He is also author of the urban fantasy novel ‘Jack and the Lad’.