Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes, and Ferrets!

The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes, and Ferrets!

Marcia Williams
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick, 2016   ISBN: 978-0763681227

For thirty years a war between two “noble families,” the House of York and the House of Lancaster, tore England apart. The war, known as the War of the Roses, probably would have continued had it not been for Henry Tudor, who was a member of the House of Lancaster. He left his home in Wales and went to battle, defeating Richard III of the House of York in 1485. Henry was crowned king Henry VII of England in London. Since he was only distantly entitled to the crown, Henry VII knew that his position was precarious and he set about securing his place. He got rid of the people who would displace him, and married Elizabeth of York, thus uniting the two powerful houses.

For twenty-four years Henry worried “about money or plots to steal his crown.” He carefully trained his eldest son, Arthur, so that he would know about statecraft when it was his turn to rule. He married Arthur and his other children to other royals to build alliances with Scotland, France and Spain. Arthur married Catherine of Aragon but their union did not last long. Arthur died just five months after the wedding and so Henry VII’s younger son Henry (whose was nicknamed Hal) was now his heir.

Hal had had a carefree life until the death of his older brother and settling down to acquire the skills he was going to need to be the next king was not easy for him. Henry was engaged to Arthur’s widow, and soon after Henry VII’s death Hal, now Henry VIII, was married to the Spanish princess.

Henry VIII loved to enjoy himself and did not pay much attention to “the affairs of the realm.” Thankfully, his chief minister, Thomas Wolsey, was a very hardworking, ambitious, and cunning man. He knew how to say the right things at the right time and when to keep silent. Even when Henry took Hampton Palace away from Wolsey, the cardinal did not complain.

Henry VIII had a very comfortable life, but there was one thing that was missing: a son. He needed a son to be his heir and when Catherine was not able to give him the son he needed, Henry set about looking for a new wife, and dissolving his marriage to Catherine. Divorce was not permitted by the Catholic Church and so, in the end, Henry VIII formed his own church, the Church of England, gave himself the divorce he needed, and married Anne Boleyn. No one then could possibly know how much this event would impact the history of England in the years to come.

In this splendid book, comic book style art is paired with an engaging narrative that is packed with interesting facts about the Tudors and their times. Our guide to the story of the Tudors is a fictitious character, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite scribe. The scribe, Arthur Inkblot, has a pet ferret whose antics and comments, shown in the margins of every spread, offer readers grand entertainment. At the bottom of every spread we are shown “scenes from the lives of Tudor common folk.” Needless to say their lot in life was very different from that enjoyed by the aristocrats whose stories fill the main pages.