Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Private Lives of the Tudors

Uncovering the Secrets of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty

by Tracy Borman

The internationally bestselling author of Thomas Cromwell and Elizabeth’s Women takes readers behind the closed doors and into the intimate lives of the Tudor monarchs.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 464
  • Publication Date October 17, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2754-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $20.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 464
  • Publication Date January 03, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2599-6
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00

About The Book

England’s Tudor monarchs—Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VII, Mary I, and Elizabeth I—are perhaps the most celebrated of all royal families in history. Their love affairs, their political triumphs, and their religious reforms are the subject of countless works of scholarship. But for all we know about Henry’s quest for male heirs, or Elizabeth’s virginity, the private lives of the Tudor monarchs remain largely beyond our grasp.

In The Private Lives of the Tudors, acclaimed historian Tracy Borman shows what their lives were like beyond the stage of court. Drawing on the original material from those closest to them—courtiers like the “groom of the stool,” surprisingly a much-coveted position—Borman examines Tudor life in fine detail. What did the monarchs eat? What did they wear, and how were their clothes designed, bought, and cared for? How did the Tudors wield power? When sick, how were they treated? What games did they play? How did they practice their faith? And in earthlier moments, whom did they love, and how did they give birth to the all-important heirs?

Delving deep into their education, upbringing, and sexual lives, and into the kitchens, bathrooms, schoolrooms, and bedrooms of court, Borman charts out the course of the entire Tudor dynasty, surfacing new and fascinating insights into these celebrated figures.


“For Borman, the intimate particulars of everyday life are what help the past come bracingly, stirringly alive. Her full-quivered social history of the Tudor monarchs . . . furnishes readers with a ‘Hey, did you know . . . ?’ on almost every page . . . [An] authoritative work.” —Jean Zimmerman, New York Times Book Review

“Borman’s passion for the Tudor period shines forth from the pages of this fascinatingly detailed book.” —Allison Weir, author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII

“Borman’s authoritative social history teems with delightful details.” —New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

“[Written] with effortless verve . . . [A] riveting history.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“[A] fascinating new book . . . No royal family is better known . . . But there’s still much to learn from The Private Lives of the Tudors thanks to the expertise and persistence of Borman . . . The most captivating moments of Private Lives, and there are plenty of them, bring the reader into other personal Tudor moments of strength, weakness, and heartache.” —Randy Dotinga, Christian Science Monitor

“Comprehensively researched and compulsively readable . . . The potions, plots, liaisons and marriages described in this book are thoroughly entertaining . . . A bloody good read.” —Paul Duncan, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“This is a fascinating and informative account of the personal lives of the Tudors. So much so that it is certain that the average person would surely be unfamiliar with much of this history.” —Stuart McClung, New York Journal of Books

“[Borman] artfully crafts a thorough reimagining of life at the Tudor court, while also providing a look at the humanity of these larger-than-life figures . . . Borman’s history expands well beyond public knowledge to the definite delight of Tudor fans.” —Katie McGaha, Library Journal

“A measured, precise, and humanizing overview of the behind-the-scenes monarchical lives of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VII, Mary I, and Elizabeth I . . . Fascinating . . . This Downton Abbey-like peek into the everyday lives of these privileged yet cloistered rulers and their households will appeal to both serious scholars and Tudor enthusiasts.” —Booklist

“Amusing [and] well-researched . . . [An] entertaining mixture of esoteric social history and well-known details of the persona lives of the Tudor monarchs.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Borman . . . unearth[s] some obscure and intriguing tidbits that have been overlooked by other historians . . . Though all five Tudor monarchs made even their most private moments into courtly spectacles . . . Borman’s fine book goes far toward humanizing them. Recommended.” —Publishers Weekly

“[A] fascinating, detailed account . . . Borman ranges far and wide in her quest to throw light on what the Tudor kings and queens ate, what they wore, what they did with their days and how they spent their nights . . . This is a book of rich scholarship. Tracy Borman . . . knows her Tudor history inside out.” —Daily Mail (UK)

“Borman approaches her topic with huge enthusiasm and a keen eye . . . All good fun. And there is plenty of it . . . Borman really succeeds when she uses her store of homely tidbits to recast our perceptions of Tudors we thought we knew . . . This is a very human story of a remarkable family, full of vignettes that sit long in the mind.” —Sunday Times (UK)

“Tracy Borman’s eye for detail is impressive; the book is packed with fascinating courtly minutiae . . . [Borman is] a very good historian and this is a wonderful book.” —Times (UK)

“Like Alison Weir . . . Borman is an authoritative and engaging writer, good at prising out those humanizing details that make the past alive to us.” —Guardian (UK)


A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice


The royal bedding ceremony was subject to a similarly strict set of rules as the marriage ceremony and wedding feast. At around 8 o’clock in the evening, the bride was escorted to her chamber by her ladies, who undressed her and put her to bed. The groom, meanwhile, was stripped down to just his shirt—an undergarment that would have reached to at least mid-thigh and, in Henry’s case, would have been delicately embroidered. Then, accompanied by his gentlemen attendants, musicians, priests and bishops, he joined his wife in the bedchamber. The clerics would pronounce their blessings, and then a concoction of wine and spices would be served. Known as the void or voidee, this was a mixture of expensive sweet and sharp spices such as pepper, saffron, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. It was thought to be beneficial to health and digestion, as well as sweetening the breath and engendering strength and courage.

The onlookers were often slow to leave. Sometimes, they demanded to see the naked legs of the couple touching, which in some cases was accepted as a sign of consummation.

Others expected to witness the royal newlyweds kissing or embracing. It was a crude reminder that a royal body was the property of the state; its functions of great interest to the people of the realm. Even after the throng of courtiers had bidden the couple goodnight and left the chamber, some may have lingered outside the closed door, straining their ears for any sound that might indicate the act of consummation was underway.