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 was made-up? And I mean, also, virgin queens who lock rival beautiful young queens up in draughty castles for the rest of their lives?! A patriarchal monarch obsessed with begetting a boy-king on the kingdom , only for – wait for the massive irony – that boy king to be a weakling who dies at 15, and then 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 that rival beautiful young queen, aka Mary Queen of Scots; blowing up a husband – allegedly – in the middle of Edinburgh?! Assassination plots with ciphered messages stashed 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 madcap mentality I tried to evoke 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. The book is 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 have looked like. I guess my greatest hope for the book is that out there somewhere it might one day inspire another sceptical little schoolboy into thinking that actually yes, this stuff might be as far-fetched as late-70s ‘Doctor Who’, but look, it really was true!