he nation has been labouring under a recent flurry of Tudors. There have been numerous romantic historical productions, among them Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, and an endless TV series with the young King Henry jousting, feasting, hunting and whoring his way round the forests and stately homes of England. Hilary Mantel’s massive new novel will be published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Henry’s accession to the throne. She covers much the same ground as the popular histories, but in an entirely different register and with a different bias. Affairs of state predominate over the sex lives of her characters, rather than the other way around.