A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England
by Suzannnah Lipscomb
London: Ebury Press, 2012
Appreciated the fact that Lipscomb lets the reader know in the Introduction that this book is meant as an overview and not for specialists. With that in mind I certainly enjoyed A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England.
No locale is covered extensively yet there were several things that Lipscomb proposed that proved interesting such as the projected name of the ship, Mary Rose, being for the Virgin Mary and the Tudor Rose as opposed to the long-held view that the ship’s namesake was Henry VIII’s younger sister. Also, there was mention of the 22-yard scroll at Hatfield depicting the genealogy of Elizabeth I—having read about that recently, I enjoyed seeing it mentioned again.
Having ‘social’ history of the era interspersed in the book gave a good flavor of the time period with coverage of the food, theatre, sports, social climbing and clothing.
Lipscombe accomplished close to the impossible by basing the sites included in the book on four criteria: there had to be something physically remaining of the site; a significant person or event in Tudor history had to have connections to the site; a large geographic area had to be represented; and together the sites must depict a balanced overview of the era. This couldn’t have been easy yet Lipscomb achieves her goals with an intriguing list which includes palaces, castles, churches, a battlefield, a ship and a tree without being all in the south-east or all connected to Henry VIII.
The mistakes noted were ones perhaps recognized by people well-versed in Tudor history. An example of a small mistake was referring to Sir Anthony Browne, as Anthony Cowdray on page 68. Browne was a prominent figure under Henry VIII who commissioned the Cowdray Engravings named after Cowdray House which he owned near Midlhurst, Sussex, and where the paintings were displayed.
The only other negative was the fact that Roy Strong was not mentioned as a source for further reading. He is an acclaimed authority on Tudor portraiture and excluding any of his amazing works was a bit of a surprise. And although I am not a fan of Tracy Borman’s Elizabeth’s Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen, Lipscomb’s inclusion of that title was not off-putting.
My enjoyment of the book was entwined with using it as a reminder of my visits to 34 of the 50 sites but this book would be a helpful guide to anyone wanting to explore a bit of Tudor England. Tudor fans can certainly gain a workable list of interesting places to visit and can do further research themselves if needed.