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Abstract

The ‘Tudor’ name for the royal family was hardly known in the sixteenth century. The almost obsessive use of the term by historians is therefore profoundly misleading about how English people of the time thought of themselves and of their world, the more so given the overtones of glamour associated with it. The royal surname was never used in official publications, and hardly in ‘histories’ of various sorts before 1584. Monarchs were not anxious to publicize their descent in the paternal line from a Welsh adventurer, stressing instead continuity with the historic English and French royal families. Their subjects did not think of them as ‘Tudors’, or of themselves as ‘Tudor people’. Modern concepts such as ‘Tudor monarchy’ are misleading in suggesting a false unity over the century. Subjects did not identify with their rulers in the way ‘Tudor people’ suggests. Nor did they situate themselves in a distinct ‘Tudor’ period of history, differentiated from a hypothetical ‘middle ages’. While ‘Tudor’ is useful historian's shorthand we should use the word sparingly and above all make clear to readers that it was not a contemporary concept.