Historians like to map the present onto the past more than they care to admit. A current fashion is for books on spin, image and media manipulation. Last year Larry Silver produced a remarkable book showing how the Emperor Maximilian I set out to ‘market’ himself in print and art. Kevin Sharpe, a historian lately turned professor of literature, is much more ambitious. Selling the Tudor Monarchy, a major synthesis of the scholarship on the period, is the first volume of a near-completed trilogy covering representations of the English monarchy from Henry VIII’s break with Rome to the Revolution of 1688.
The range of material is encyclopaedic, including paintings and decorative objects; letters, speeches and proclamations; coins and medals; woodcuts, engravings and broadsides; revels and court festivals. Sharpe’s agenda isn’t Tudor iconography as such, but to uncover how the monarchy was represented in verbal and visual cultures, turning the