If you were one of the faithful who watched religiously the machinations, schemes and horrors that ran rampant through the court of Henry VIII through the four seasons of Showtime's historical tour de force, The Tudors, you may want to spend a few days with G. J. Meyer's new history of the whole family in The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty. While Meyer's portrait of Henry VIII may not be much like the dashing Jonathan Rhys Meyers, it is likely the more accurate picture, physically, if nothing else. Still like the Showtime series, G. J. Meyer's book is no dry as dust academic history. It is a lively account of life, love and death in not only the court of Henry VIII, but that of his father and three children as well.
Meyer begins with Henry VII's ascent to the throne after the defeat of Richard III at Bosworth Field, the battle which — as Shakespeare would have it — the defeated villain screamed out his offer of his kingdom for a horse in 1485 and ends with the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. While he does deal with the reigns of all the Tudors, the bulk of the book deals with Henry VIII and his ego-maniacal thirst to control the hearts and minds of his subjects and the bloody results of that ego. It was not merely that he wanted to rid himself of a wife he no longer wanted, as Meyer sees it, it was a firm belief in his own godlike wisdom and authority. His quarrels with Rome were as much about his demands for his own supremacy as it was for the granting of an annulment from Catherine of Aragon. Besides, the suppression of Catholic institutions in England had the advantage of swelling his treasuries and those of his favorites.