Tuesday 25 August 2020

The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes and Ferrets


The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes and Ferrets by Marcia Williams (Walker Books) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9781406384024

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Introducing himself, the fictional scribe Arthur Inkblot writing in the year 1603, says he was asked -- when he was in his tenth year -- by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 1 (who has recently died) to write about the Tudors of whom Elizabeth was the last. He is also writing with his ferret, Smudge. 

Arthur starts with the first Tudor monarch, Henry V11 (1458-1509) who followed the reign of the Yorkist king, Richard 111. Writing in third person past tense, the young scribe tells of life as it was in those times, explaining about wealthy landowners, peasants and private soldiers in the civil war (The War of the Roses) that was tearing the country apart. 

Proceeding with the history, Arthur has his characters, such as Henry Tudor, speaking as the story of the Battle of Bosworth Field unfolds. The following chapters make up the rest of the book: King Henry V111, Henry’s Six Wives, The Short Reign of Edward V1, The Even Shorter Reign of Queen Jane, Queen Mary 1, Queen Elizabeth 1 and Ten Tudor Truths that Could Lose Your Head in the Telling. And then there’s a glossary. 

For anyone wanting to read about history no matter their age, this book is ideal. Although it includes battles, dates, palace intrigues – even a section about Columbus and Shakespeare, it is easy to read and to follow. Arthur Inkblot puts himself (and the reader) into the story so one feels as though history is happening as one reads. 

Helping the ease of reading is the inclusion of black and white detailed wash illustrations which appear on every page. When Arthur concludes his tale, he hopes he has done her majesty, Good Queen Bess, proud. If not, he imagines the heavens will be split asunder, followed by Her Majesty’s wrathful words: ‘Clench poop! Dolt! Carpet Knight! Cod’s head! Gore Belly! Canst though not tell a good tale when it’s all there for the telling?’ 

The final chapter is full of interesting pieces of trivia such as ‘Elizabeth 1 owned 2 000 dresses’, ‘There was no such thing as toothpaste so rotten teeth were common’, and ‘Henry V111 wore the first known pair of football boots. They cost four shillings – six months’ salary for a maidservant – and were among his 17 000 possessions.’

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