HISTORICAL BOOK REVIEW: ‘The House of Dudley: A New History of Tudor England’ by Joanne Paul

The shocking and extraordinary story of the most conniving, manipulative Tudor family you’ve never heard of—the dashing and daring House of Dudley.

Each Tudor monarch made their name with a Dudley by their side—or by crushing one beneath their feet.

The Dudleys thrived at the court of Henry VII, but were sacrificed to the popularity of Henry VIII. Rising to prominence in the reign of Edward VI, the Dudleys lost it all by advancing Jane Grey to the throne over Mary I. That was until the reign of Elizabeth I, when the family was once again at the center of power, and would do anything to remain there. . . .

With three generations of felled favorites, what was it that caused this family to keep rising so high and falling so low?

Here, for the first time, is the story of England’s Borgias, a noble house competing in a murderous game for the English throne. Witness cunning, adultery, and sheer audacity from history’s most brilliant, bold, and deceitful family.

Welcome to the House of Dudley.


Do you love reading about the Tudors, but sometimes feel like every book is much the same (because you have read five hundred of them), even though they all promised a ‘fresh look?’ Here is a book that actually provides a new angle on the Tudors, without having to resort to flimsy claims or controversial ideas.

The Dudley family is known to all who enjoy the Tudor era, but rarely play a starring role, which is unusual given their immense depth and adventure. The names Howard, Seymour, Boleyn, or Grey always get a mention, but the Dudleys were always right there, in plain sight, and would one day make their move for ultimate power in England. Their tale is one of highs and catastrophic lows, and Dr Joanne Paul has wrapped this dramatic family into one precious book. From an author who has already created excellent academic works, this book was guaranteed to succeed from the outset.

The book starts with the funeral of Anne Windsor, Sir Edmund Dudley’s first wife, circa. 1503 after the birth of a daughter, Elizabeth. Edmund Dudley instantly remarried well to Elizabeth Grey, only to become a head shorter one year after King Henry VII died in 1509 when Henry VIII needed someone to blame for his father’s unpopular tax policies. Edmund Dudley left behind his wife Elizabeth and their three sons, John, Jerome, and Andrew. But the loss of Edmund Dudley did not hinder the family for long; John Dudley was reinstated as heir, and his mother Elizabeth married Arthur Plantagenet, the illegitimate son of King Henry IV.

While Jerome Dudley suffered a form of disability, and Andrew Dudley was destined for a life between the navy and financial admin, the eldest John Dudley was destined for a remarkable life, living close to the circles of power. The son of a traitor, Dudley had to be careful, forged quiet friendships and worked in respectful but not extraordinary roles under King Henry VIII, and was still alive to see the great king die in 1547, unlike so many other councillors. By the time young Edward VI took the throne, Dudley was to be the Duke of Warwick, close to the boy king on his regency council. As the Seymour brothers and their associated allies died or fell away, it was Dudley left close to the throne, later made the Duke of Northumberland and the head councillor beside the boy king.

John Dudley’s story could have ended there, until the dying Edward VI named Lady Jane Grey his heir. John had married one of his many sons, Guildford, to Lady Jane. Jane’s father, Henry Grey was John Dudley’s third cousin, and together, through their children, they could control the throne of England and repel Henry VIII’s Catholic daughter, Mary,

The realities of Queen Jane and the volatile aftermath are well-known, though not as often viewed through the lens of the Dudley family. This book takes you through the decades of turmoil of the Dudley family in a way that makes it feel more like a story than a set of historical facts and then goes past John Dudley to his son Robert, and the dramatic life he led with Amy Robsart and Queen Elizabeth I.

This book takes well-worn stories and shows them from an unfamiliar perspective you won’t get elsewhere. I personally have always preferred the people close to power rather than the rulers themselves, making the Dudleys (and Greys) a fantastic subject. Toss in the fact the hardback edition is absolutely gorgeous, and you have a book you will refer back to again and again. Perfect.


This review was not given in return for a free book – buy books (or visit libraries) and make sure authors are fairly paid

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