Sunday, 23 January 2011

Why the Tudors?

What is it about the Tudors that makes them so popular with writers of both fiction and non-fiction and makers of films and television programmes?

Yes, there were larger than life characters around in the Tudor era, but so there were in other centuries.

Yes, big and important events occurred, that had a lasting impact on the nation - but again, so they did in other centuries.

And yes, the dresses were pretty - but so they were at other times.

Why not a television series on the life and times of Cecily Neville?

A family saga on the grandest scale. Plenty of drama, several battles, and enough good meaty roles to employ a fair proportion of Equity.

Or what about the life and loves of Charles II

Lots of sex, as well as all the political stuff. And yes, the dresses were pretty.

I suppose eventually the fashion for all things Tudor will pass, and the headless females on the book covers will be wearing some other style of dress.


  1. I like historical fiction as well. Especially the work of Sharon K. Penman.
    Good luck with you new blog. It can be lots of fun.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you'll drop in again sometimes.

  3. oh, very well said! I've been telling the bbc they should screen something other than tudors for ages. plantagents get my vote ... or the late anglo saxons.

    interesting blog by the way,


  4. I don't think Richard of Gloucester has ever been done as a tv drama, has he? - other than the Shakespeare version.

    I suppose the producers/writers would have come down on one side or another on the subject of the Princes, which would stir up heated debate, whatever view they took.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Why not a television series on the life and times of Cecily Neville?

    I know that a sober, sensible History blog is not the place for unrestrained fangirl squee, but it was difficult to stop phrases like “OMG, yay, awesome!” drifting across my mind when I read that.

    Of course, the problem with the Rose of Raby would be not so much “Where do you start?”, but “Where do you stop?”. I think I once read a novel from her pov, but with history generally written from the male viewpoint she’s not generally much mentioned after about 1470, so it sometimes comes as a surprise to remember that she lived until 1495.

    A drama series with her as the protagonist would be epic, but I can imagine programme commissioners going, “Somebody’s mother? So why don’t we just make a series about Edward IV? All those women, all that intrigue? Those battles?.”

    Which then leads you down the path of the whole illegitimacy thing, and was Elizabeth Woodville really a scheming witch and virtually the inventor of nepotism, or was she just a truly virtuous lady who only wanted the best for her birth family? Er, yeah, of course she was.

    Or Richard. I would love to see Richard done properly. Which, as you say, would of course stir up the whole Princes in the Tower business. Actually, I’d quite like to see a kind of “Who Do You Think You Are?” on Richard, not so much on the ancestry which is of course unquestioned, but showing how the documentation can be used to get to the known facts.

    In fact, although I haven’t yet watched Michael Wood’s Kibworth programme, I imagine something along those lines - in terms of the paperwork, obviously - would be good. That way, the provable facts could be put forward and it could be left to the viewer to fit them together. In fact, it would probably come as quite a shock to the viewing public to discover that there are far more murders quite casually attributed to Richard’s two successors. (I think you can see whose side I’m on!)

    In fact the more I think about it, the more I can see why it hasn’t been done...

    (By the way, it wasn’t until I copied your text into Word that I realised there was a link on her name - it really needs a different colour. Thank you for the link, though: I use the National Archives website a lot, but that’s a whole section I’ve never come across.)

  6. years and years ago, i am showing my age, the bbc did a series with a couple of modern day detectives researching the facts behind the princes disappearance in the tower. it was along the lines of josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time. it was that show that got me into richard the third, i was about 14 at the time, so probably 1974 :(

  7. I don't remember the 1974 series (though I do remember 1974!) Channel 4 did a trial of Richard III, in 1984, according to the book, which I picked up secondhand somewhere.

    One of the witnesses for the prosecution was the now-ubiquitous Starkey, on what I think might have been his first tv appearance. I hold him partly responsible for the current Tudor obsession!

    DG, I wrote a response to your post, but it was getting so long I thought it deserved to be a post in its own right on the blog. Probably won't be the next thing I post, maybe the one after.

    Thanks for pointing out the problem with the links, by the way. When I preview they show as links already followed, so I don't know what they look like to other people. I've changed the colours, so I hope they show up better now.