The Children of Henry VIII

ISBN: 140254703X
ISBN 13: 9781402547034
By: Alison Weir

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Biography England Historical Historical Fiction History Non Fiction Nonfiction To Read Tudor Tudors

About this book

At his death in 1547, King Henry VIII left four heirs to the English throne: his only son, the nine-year-old Prince Edward; the Lady Mary, the adult daughter of his first wife Katherine of Aragon; the Lady Elizabeth, the teenage daughter of his second wife Anne Boleyn; and his young great-niece, the Lady Jane Grey. In her new book, Alison Weir paints a unique portrait of these four extraordinary rulers, examining their intricate relationships to each other and to history.Weir opens her narrative with the death of Henry and the accession of the boy king Edward VI. Often portrayed as weak and sickly, Edward, in face, had a keen intelligence and flair for leadership. Had he not contracted a fatal disease at the age of fifteen, Edward might have become one of England's great kings. Instead, his brief reign was marked by vicious court intrigue that took the monarchy to the verge of bankruptcy.Edward's death in 1553 plunged England into chaos, and it was in this explosive atmoshpere that the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey was crowned Queen of England. A fragile, intellictual girl, Jane was only too happy to end her nine-day rule when the rioting English populace proclaimed Mary their true and rightful sovereign. Despite her innocence, Jane was brutally executed at the age of sixteen.Mary's reign was marked by her savage persecution of heretics (non-Catholics) and by the emotional turbulence of her marriage to King Philip II of Spain. Weir describes the mounting tensions of the final days of Mary's bloody reign, as the shrewd, politically adroit Elizabeth quietly positioned herself to seeume royal power. The Children of Henry VIII closes with Elizabeth's accession and most spectacularly successful, reigns in English History.Deeply engrossing, written with grace and clarity, The Children of Henry VIII combines the best of history and biography. Weir's devoted readers will recognize this as her finest book yet.

Reader's Thoughts


One of those rare history books that's actually interesting and enjoyable to read. I couldn't put it down, and now I feel compelled to get and read all her other books. I did have a major problem with the book (hence the loss of a star) in that nothing is mentioned about Elizabeth's reign. A book titled The Children of Henry VIII should include far more on the child who ended up reigning the longest. Then again, the author is coming out with a book on Elizabeth in February 2009. As long as you're aware that Elizabeth the Queen won't be covered, you won't be disappointed in this book.

Lukasz Pruski

And now for something completely different. Not a mystery book review. First, a disclaimer: I have quite a limited experience with history books, having read fewer than 10 of these in my lifetime, in contrast with well over a thousand mysteries and several hundreds of “serious fiction” titles (not to mention non-history non-fiction titles or books in my profession). I understand that Ms. Weir’s “serious” books, meaning her historical non-fiction, are frowned upon by “serious” historians as being too popular, simplistic, and too focused on the “plot”. This may well be true; however, on the spectrum whose endpoints are research-level study of history on one side, and fictitious story based on selected historical facts on the other side, “The Children of Henry VIII” lies quite close to the former, “serious” endpoint, in my view. True, there is perhaps too much focus on stories of individual people, the movers and shakers. Critics claim that there is not enough emphasis on socio-economic and global factors in Ms. Weir’s non-fiction. I tend to disagree. She shows how the heavy political interplay between the Habsburgs, France, and the Holy See affects England. She also shows the influence of mass movements (protests or expressions of sympathy) of “ordinary people” on the course of political events. And even if the socio-economic background is missing, I can always read a “serious” history book for additional depth. Also, the focus on the intertwined stories of individual people makes this book so interesting to read.Ms. Weir vividly presents the four children of Henry VIII (three children and a grand-niece): Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth I, each of whom would end up ruling England. I find the characterizations deep and revealing. The book is also a fascinating study of how powerful people’s greed for more wealth and more power is not an insignificant driver of history. The events take place in the 16th century so religion plays a crucial role; these are the times of Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Ms. Weir’s portrayal of the contrast between religious fanaticism and treating religion as an expediency is quite sharp. I would love to learn more about where would most of the so-called “ordinary people” be on this spectrum. The real-life “plot” of this book is more thrilling than the plot of 90% of the so-called thrillers, with their contrived, artificially convoluted, and obfuscating “twists and turns”.For the Internet generation, it must be hard to take that in the 16th century news traveled by foot or, at best, on horseback. It might have taken days or even weeks for people in the country to learn that the king is dead, even if it was not a secret. Finally, I loved the book because I had to read it slowly; it took me so much time to get through it! There was no skipping over sentences or paragraphs! Four and a half stars.


One of Alison Weir's most popular books does not disappoint. Its material flies off the pages and makes you really think about what happened between Henry VIII's death and Elizabeth I's succession. I thought that I would already know a lot of what was in this book, having read a multitude of other books on this period, but I was very, very wrong. Firstly is Edward VI's succession. A man hailed as 'the next King Solomon' - as such a young boy when he came to the throne (9 years old) he was manipulated and pushed by his advisors to agree to everything they ever wanted. Consequently, he rarely made any of his own decisions. But he pushed England to such a fervour of Protestantism, he was prepared to write his own sister out of the succession. Putting Lady Jane Grey in her place. Jane Grey, also manipulated and incredibly ill-treated by her parents, was forced to take the crown, but she was not forced to die. After Mary took the throne, she did not want to kill her cousin, and gave her many chances to take up the Catholic faith, but Jane was a fierce protestant, and, you could say she had a hand in signing her own death warrant. She wanted martyrdom, or at least she would not be persuaded to follow Catholocism. Queen Mary's reign started with happiness and support from her people, but such misery and horrific atrocities were performed during her reign, (300 people burned at the stake within 4 years) that when she died, the English people were glad to see the back of her. Marrying King Philip of Spain was a desperate decision for a 38 year old woman who had never allowed herself any pleasures of the flesh. She was a sad and melancholy woman, trying to convert England back to Catholocism for her own selfish pleasure. Thinking God would punish her if she did not. After Mary's death, there is a small part on Queen Elizabeth I, as the next book in the series is 'Elizabeth the Queen' - which I have already read, and is also fantastic. Weir is brilliant. I really cannot fault this book.


I have previously started this book, but I only got forty pages into it before something else caught my attention. After I finished The Six Wives of Henry VIII I wanted more Tudor stuff, so what better to read than this? After I've always been fascinated by those three royal children.This book gave me more insight into Edward VI. Although it didn't delve too deeply into his reign. Edward seems to me to have been a puppet through most of his reign. But he did set the groundwork for the Protestant religion in England and he desperately tried to prevent his sister from undoing that by naming Lady Jane Grey as his successor. Although that was technically illegal.Mary undid Edward's work and return England to the Church of Rome. She married the foreign Phillip II of Spain, which wasn't received well. I really did feel sorry for Mary when her pregnancy turned out to be a phantom. She really wanted that and with all the drama in her life, I think it would have made her happier.Of course after Mary died, Elizabeth came to the throne and this is very the books ends with Elizabeth receiving news of her ascension and her uttering that famous line from the Bible. I'm ordering Weir's biography of Elizabeth, which I don't know why I haven't done this already since I acquired two of her books before 2009 and not one on my beloved Elizabeth? For shame. But I will devour that biography as soon as it's in my hands. Oh and I've forgotten Lady Jane Grey. I knew her fate before going into the book, but I felt for her because she never wanted to be Queen and was pressured into by her parents. Her story is a sad one.

Trache Can

When reading, getting distracted easily doesn't really fair well for the whole expierence. But that's just a problem I have, the book now?Alison Weir calls this a more personal story, to which I agree. There are politics, as is necessary when talking about royalty, but more than anything, the book is dominated by the four mains, Ed, Jane, Marye, and Liz.The Marye thing is gonna stay, btw.Mostly, you just feel bad for everyone. Ed was a spoiled kid who was taken advantage of; Jane was a less spoiled kid who was taken advantage of and killed because of it (that and her Protestant convictions); Marye was an unhappy person who seemed to be a half decent sovereign until her shit hit the fan and she started burning protestants in the hundreds; and Liz, as it seemed she always did, was trying to survive.It's hard to look past tyrannical rule, but given their ages and their upbringing, there's a good deal of sympathy we can afford to the lion's cubs.Until Marye starts her fires of course. O! and Liz trying to kick all the black people out of England (that actually happened guys).Weir shows a good deal of sympathy for the chillens and seems to show them all im what is a fairly honest light. They aren't divided into saints and sinners, more just kids thrown into turbulent times, often without the tools or the guidance to help them properly navigate.I actually came out really loving Marye, up until the whole burning Protestants thing came along. She has complicated relationships with most of her family, and you really can't help but wonder: what would she have been like if she had a better childhood?All and all, a fairly enjoyable book! Pleasant and rather informative informative.

Steven Peterson

The title of this book is a bit misleading. While Weir does her usual fine job of elucidating characters and their times, calling this "The Children of Henry VIII" is a bit misleading, since Lady Jane Grey's nine day reign is included. Her story as a child until her brief reign is also told. This makes a great deal of sense historically, since she was labeled sovereign by some lords upon the death of Edward VI and before Mary's supporters drove Grey's "handlers" from power.The book does a nice job of outlining the personalities, experiences, and beliefs of Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, the children of Henry VIII as well as Lady Jane Grey, also of royal blood. Edward's reign after his father's death was brief, with his death from tuberculosis in his middle teens. Weir outlines his personality and his positions on issues of the day. He never ruled as full sovereign because of his age, but many thought him promising material. He was strongly supportive of a more radical religious stance, moving further from the Catholic Church. The story of efforts by his Council members to manipulate him and compete with one another for influence through him is well told. When his health began deteriorating, with Mary the heir to the throne, some of the nobles realized that they could be in serious trouble, given her know adherence to Catholicism and to her anger at her poor treatment by some of those nobles.Hence, the coup that placed Grey on the throne, even if only for a short while. It was an effort surely doomed to fail. When troops flocked to Mary to support her claim on the throne, the conspirators were defeated. The sad ending of Jane's life is spelled out. Mary did not want her death, but she served as a symbol for those who did not want the return of the Catholic religion. Thus, she was disposed of as an effort to defuse unrest.Far more troublesome, as discussed here, was the prickly relationship between the sisters--Mary and Elizabeth. The latter ended up in the Tower of London for awhile, sometimes sure that she was to experience her mother's fate (Anne Boleyn was her mother). Mary's marriage to Philip of Spain and her inability to produce an heir; her efforts to return England to Catholicism and the ensuing burnings at the stake for heresy (she was later referred to as “Bloody Mary”).And, with her death, the book ends with Elizabeth learning that she was now Queen.This is a standard Alison Weir work, which for me means a well written story, with plenty of details of the main focal characters and the contexts in which they found themselves. There is a nice genealogical table at the end, to see how Jane was related to Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth. Another good product from Weir's pen.


I picked this book up to "soothe" my sadness that the Showtime cable series, "The Tudors" was officially over. WOW! Gotta love it when a history book reads like a novel, which this one does!Allison Weir does a masterful job of presenting 4 very different people to us: Edward VI, Henry VIII's only legitimate son who takes the crown at the tender age of 9, and who by no means is a "sickly youth" as is often described, but a mirror copy of young Henry, with extremely rigid Protestant leanings. His oldest sister Mary, a girl who spends a bulk of her childhood and adolescence longing for her father's love, and desperately trying to hold onto the principles passed on by her mother, especially that of her rigid Roman Catholic faith. Elizabeth, the middle child, who is anything but typical; it is she who will bring prosperity to England, who will truly define the Church of England, and who will go down in history as one of, if not the, greatest monarchs in British history...but until all this comes to pass, she must wrestle with her own destructive demons. And finally, poor Lady Jane Grey, not an actual child of Henry's, but a child of his realm, who becomes a chess piece in her father-in-law's scheme to take the throne and keep Mary off of it...and who unjustly suffers because of it. It sounds so outrageous, one who doesn't know any better would think it's a soap opera, not genuine history! But that's what makes it all the more juicy, that it truly is historical fact...I knew bits and pieces about all these post Henry VIII monarchs, but there were details that even I couldn't have imagined. What was most astonishing were the stories of Mary and Elizabeth's childhoods, and how too many times they either came close, or were actual victims of sexual abuse and scandal. There is more to Lady Jane Grey than her 9 day reign, and certainly a great deal more to Edward than the simple fact that he ruled...and died far too young. This is a *must* if you are a fan of Tudor Britain, or simply a fan of history. And if you're worried about reading a history book because you're afraid it will be stuffy and dry and will not find that here. This is the first book I have read by Weir, and I will certainly be looking for more!


I love those Tudors. And I'll read just about anything about them.The Children of Henry VIII is a work of non-fiction and covers the span of time from when Henry VIII dies to when his second daughter, Elizabeth I takes the throne. So though the title says "children," the book covers the reigns of Edward VI, Jane Grey (who was Henry VIII's great-niece), Mary I, and finally Elizabeth's ascension. This book is a straight-forward look at the time and the players. Not much new, just solid stuff. It would have been more fascinating if there was more to the story than what I have already read before. If you are interested in the period, I would recommend half a dozen historical novels that you can get close to the real story but in a more entertaining way.

Jill Myles

So I've been on a total nonfiction kick lately. NO IDEA WHY. But I'm filling my brain with court politics and this was a fascinating read. I've always loved the story behind Lady Jane Grey's doomed ascent to the throne, and this provided a lot of backstory and filled in the holes. Toward the end, I started to get tired of poor Mary's reign though, and some of the religious machinations started to run together. Fascinating reading, though.


I absolutely adored this book...and not just because I'm wild and crazy about the Tudors. Let's be honest, people. Long before Dynasty, Dallas, Falcon's Landing, Another World, and even Passions, there were the Tudors, and they were wonderful! My only regret regarding the reading of this book is that Sundance Channel played 1998's Elizabeth directly I was through, and of course, all I saw during the first screening was all of the historical inaccuracies committed for sake of cinematic appeal. Before I knew it "Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, look at that Joseph Feinnes," became "Kat Ashley was not the same age as her charge; wtf is Emily Mortimer doing there?" ... Yet is not that the most primal function of literature in general, and historical record in particular: not merely to educate, but to make us think? Irritating on the part of the studio, yes, but if irritation is the pound of flesh owed for a well-functioning, healthy intellect, well...My apologies to Joseph Fiennes (it is a crying shame) but then of course, we'll always have Shakespeare in Love . Le sigh.


Fresh off her earlier work, Henry VIII, I dove headfirst into this follow-up that recounts the tumultuous period between the great monarch’s death and the ascension of his second daughter, Elizabeth. The title, as many have observed, is a tad misleading as only three out of the four monarchs featured were actually children of the late Henry; the teenage Lady Jane Grey, who reigned for a mere three months after the death of the equally young Edward VI and before being deposed by Mary and her allies, being technically his grand-niece. Despite this slight error, The Children of Henry VIII is a work of remarkable scholarship that shed light on a period of Tudor history that is often fast-forwarded over in popular scholarship, if not the popular imagination through the cinematic and television mediums.One interesting theory that Weir plays with is in regards to Elizabeth’s refusal to marry, which has long been a juicy gossip and rumor-mill by both professional and lay historians alike. "…with the executions of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Thomas Seymour in mind, she had come to equate marriage with death. This did not affect her desire to flirt and court male interest, but it prevented her from ever making the final commitment in any emotional relationship." Of course, it is just as likely that Elizabeth’s aversion to marriage stemmed from the very real fear that if she married a Continental monarch, she would be putting the control of her realm and her English subjects under potential foreign dominion in the event of her death. Combine that with the unsuitability of marrying any of her supposed lovers – Robert Dudley and Walter Raleigh, to name but a few – and it is easy to imagine just how hard it was being in her position. Then again, there are those who speculate that she was barren, or even that she chose to proclaim her status as a Virgin Queen in order to appease and persuade Catholics to her accept her Protestant reign. Whatever the reason(s), Elizabeth’s reign is the more remarkable for ushering in the Golden Age. Before Elizabeth, Mary was the second woman to reign from the English throne. (The first being the Empress Matilda, who reigned during a turbulent time in the twelfth century.) And for this very reason, many were wary of a woman holding the reigns of power – which was best expressed by Mary of Hungary when she remarked to Emperor Charles V, “A woman is never feared or respected as a man is, whatever the rank. In time of war it is entirely impossible for a woman to govern satisfactorily. All she can do is should responsibility for mistakes committed by others.” Of course, Elizabeth’s long and remarkable reign proved them completely wrong on all counts.Sandwiched between the reigns of the commanding personalities and the politically and socially astute minds of Henry VIII and his second daughter, Elizabeth, the short-lived reigns of Edward VI, Jane, and Mary are often overlooked as a result of their political naïveté and lack of genuine leadership skills – the first two being mere pawns of more powerful forces in the end. But it is precisely because of these short-comings of these ill-fated monarchs that reading about them becomes absolutely absorbing and fascinating.

Ana Mardoll

The Children of Henry VIII / 9780307806864I picked up this book after finishing Weir's excellent "The Six Wives of Henry VIII". This book follows straight on from the end of that one, and is an excellent and engrossing look at the interactions between Edward, Mary, Elizabeth, and Jane Grey as they each in turn took the English throne whilst maintaining complex relationships with the others. There's really not much to be said here that I haven't said already with regards to Weir's books: her scholarship is (as far as I can tell) excellent, her writing is fascinating, and she takes a great deal of care to cite her sources as she goes, along with the bias and relative trustworthiness of that source. I greatly appreciate her style, as it really conveys what was gossip, what was possibly true, and what was most likely true in her estimation. If I have any criticism to give on Weir's writing, it would perhaps be that I wish she would use a few more commas -- sentences like "In late May Mary moved..." give me a moment of pause while my brain sorts out what I am reading. But this is a very minor point. The only other issue I have with this book is that it feels like it short-changes us a touch on the Elizabeth front. The book covers Edward's ascension to the throne and ends with Mary's death and Elizabeth's rise to power. In a way this makes sense, given that the theme of the book is the interactions between Henry's heirs, and once Elizabeth is queen, there are no more heirs to interact with. And it's not like the book is lightweight, since it comes in at over 400 pages in the eBook version. But there's something rather disconcerting about reading so much about Elizabeth's struggles under Mary's reign and then signing off just as she comes into her own. I note that Weir has an entire volume solely on "The Life of Elizabeth I", so you might want to follow this book with that one. ~ Ana Mardoll

Kelsey McKim

I read The Six Wives of Henry VIII a couple years ago, so this seemed like the logical next Weir book to pick up. It did not disappoint! Weir is unlike almost any other historical author in that she can write about dry facts and integrate scattered contemporary quotes in a way that reads like a story. Her writing is dense and you have to take your time with this book or you'll miss things, but it doesn't get boring. The tumultuous passing of the crown between Edward, Mary, Elizabeth, and Jane Seymour provides more than enough action and drama to keep the reader intrigued, and Weir doesn't let the drama get lost.I'm very impressed with this book, as I was with The Six Wives of Henry VIII. I didn't think it was possible to reconstruct the lives of these sixteenth-centry monarchs with such detail!


On that day a dead dog with clipped ears, a rope around its neck, and its head tonsured like a priest’s was hurled into the Queen’s chamber at Whitehall.This is history at its best, with utterly intense soap opera plots and weird glamorous characters and all of it true. This book picks up where Henry VIII and his collection of calamitous chorines left off and tells the story of the next eleven years. And what eleven years they were. Heads rolled, the stench of burning flesh hung in the air, and there was a coup d’etat, and in the middle of it all, three unfortunate children, one of whom was beheaded.When Henry expired of (it is thought) type II diabetes he’d already laid down what should happen to the crown. It should go to his only son Edward, then if he died without any heirs to his first daughter Mary, then if she died without any heirs to his second daughter Elizabeth. No one paid too much attention to the back-up plan with the girls, since the likelihood of them succeeding was thought remote, but that is exactly what happened. The Tudors were really bad at having kids. There’s a woman at my office who had two sons in quick succession recently. I said “you would have made a great wife for Henry VIII” and she said “No, I would have been dead, they were both C section, and one was breech”. Being pregnant was often a death sentence. Extract from Mary’s will, 1557 :I, Mary Queen of England, thinking myself to be with child in lawful marriage…and being at this present (thanks be unto Almighty God) otherwise in good health, yet foreseeing the great danger which, by God’s ordinance, remains to all women in the travail of children, have thought…to declare my last will and testament.So Edward VI became King aged 9 in 1547. He sounds like a precocious spiteful arrogant brat, God rest his soul. The big shot lords who ran the government were pushing through a religious revolution in his name, and this was the big issue of the day. Henry VIII as we know had told the Pope to go chastise himself, and declared Henry himself to be Supreme Head of the Church of England, but that didn’t mean he was a Protestant – no sir! But Edward’s handlers, they were.Meanwhile, half sister Mary, aged 31, was a hardcore Catholic (she was half Spanish); and half sister Elizabeth, aged 14, was becoming a hardcore Protestant. The salty English soup was coming to the boil.Edward VI started to die when he was around 14 and completed the job aged 15. He probably had tuberculosis. For lurid descriptions of lingering vile fatal illnesses, Alison Weir is hard to beat here.After this teenage death the salty soup boiled over. THE NINE DAY QUEENThe guy running the government at that point was one John Dudley (Duke of Northumberland, Lord High Admiral, blah blah). He went just a little bit completely crazy. He saw his meal ticket subsided into the arms of Lethe, and his mind was racing – if Mary is Queen, I’ll be for the chop. She’ll throw out all the Protestants and bring in Catholics. I’ll lose everything. What can I do to rescue this damnable situation? So he came up with a Plan. 1. Persuade the dying 15 year old King to disinherit both his sisters2. Persuade him to nominate another child as his successor3. Persuade the regency council and the entire country to accept this insane plan. Then I can carry on running the country.The hapless girl he fixed on was a 15 year old called Jane Grey, a cousin of the king and a great grand daughter of Henry VII. John Dudley bullied her parents, bullied the council, and bullied her. His line was, it’s either Jane Grey or the Pope, by which he meant, it’s either me or the Pope. For a few days after Edward died it looked like the whole thing might work. Dudley was like a chessplayer on crack – move this here, block this there, swap those off, get that and that round to here… but then his great plan began to unravel just like in my chess games. As soon as they announced the succession of Queen Jane through England people (the nobles and the hoi polloi) started spontaneously drifting to Mary’s residence in Framlingham to declare support for her. Dudley got an army together to go and take Mary prisoner, he realised that would be essential, and he was running around bribing the solders and they were melting away, deserting, shamed by the nastiness of the enterprise. Yes, Mary was a Catholic, but she was Harry’s daughter. Everyone knew that. So Dudley was left with a melting posse, not an army, a loutish gang, and Mary arrested him, not the other way round, and that was the end of that.QUEEN MARY’S TO DO LIST1. Suppress rivals to the throne by force of arms2. Imprison Elizabeth in The Tower (we can’t prove anything but just let’s make her sweat a little bit)3. Behead Jane? 4. Get married to Catholic toy boy5. Convert the whole country back to Catholicism6. Give birth to boy7. Burn heretics by the scoreQueen Jane Approximately was clapped in the Tower of London with her immediate family and fiancé. Mary was Queen, the nation rejoiced. How quickly their songs of love and celebration turned to tears and gnashing of teeth. As Catherine of Aragon is the agonised heroine of Henry VIII’s reign, so her daughter Mary is the agonised antiheroine of the following ten years.At first Mary was all sweetness and mercy and didn’t want to execute Jane or her family. Until there was another rebellion, also feeble, which also melted away. That convinced her to remove her rivals, so she threw her sister into the Tower, and Jane, aged 16, went to the block.After that, no more Mrs Nice Mary. She got married to a Spanish Catholic prince. She was 38, he was 27.Description of Mary by Ruy Gomez, her husband’s best mate :rather older than we had been told. She is not at all beautiful and is small and flabby rather than fat. She is of white complexion and fair, and has no eyebrows…. [Philip] treats the Queen very kindly and well knows how to pass over the fact that she is no good from the point of view of fleshly sensuality.Anonymous Spanish courtier : What shall the king do with such an old bitch?After the wedding and the honeymoon came the serious business of burning human beings alive, however. Back to work. It turned out that this sweet woman, who pretty much everyone liked personally, who had been sorely mistreated most of her life, called a bastard, rejected and imprisoned by her father and brother, who everyone had such sympathy for, when by a simple twist of fate she broke free from this wretched life and became queen, the first ever English queen to reign in her own name, the thing she really wanted to do was burn people alive if they disagreed with her.HERETICS : BURNINGS PER MONARCHElizabeth – 5 in 45 years (0.11 per year)Henry VII – 10 in 24 years (0.41 per year)Henry VIII – 81 in 38 years (2.3 per year)Mary – 295 in 4 years (74 per year)ENGLAND UNDER MARYI never saw England weaker in strength, money, men and riches. As much affectionate as you know me to be to my country and countrymen, I assure you I was ashamed of both. Here was nothing but fining, heading, hanging, quartering and burning.. taxing, levying and beggaring, and losing our strongholds abroad. A few priests ruled all, who, with setting up of six foot roods, thought to make all cocksure.Thomas Smith, 1560IN CONCLUSIONMy kind of history book, a great story told with meticulous detail. Alison Weir isn’t the most personal writer, she keeps her own counsel, refrains from comment, and I would have liked more of that, but really, I ain’t complaining none, this was hair-raising.

Ray Campbell

Weir does a terrific job of storytelling. There are histories that are dry and impersonal, this is not one of them. By focusing on a narrow window, Weir makes it easy to connect to the characters in the book as though it's great fiction rather than history. Never the less, her research is amazing and she has many scholarly points to make.The book begins with a quick run up and review of the reign of Henry VIII in order to set the stage for the assent of his son, Edward VI. It is easy to skip over the reigns of Edward, Lady Jane and Mary on the way from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I. However, much of the molding of the culture, government and religion of England was reaction to and grew out of the context of the radical positions of Edward and Mary. The personal details tell the story of the evolution of ideas, theology and policies. I respect the histories that cover the centuries in broad strokes, but Weir's style of writing is entertaining and informative at a much deeper level. Accounts taken from letters, diaries and testimony give us the expressions on faces, laughter, horror as well as what they wore, ate and really looked like. This level of detail makes it possible to experience history in a full color world experienced by the senses. Mary loved her little sister, Edward idealized and played with his older sisters, Mary fell head over heals for Philip and real people died for what they believed in grotesque ways while wars raged on the continent and an international cast of supporting characters came and went with news, influence and intrigue.I've read more exciting history, but only because the stories were more exciting. Alison Weir is as gifted as any historian I've read. She doesn't document every phrase in the narrative. She tells the story with details and mentions sources in context making her prose flow in a natural and unobtrusive way. It is really easy to forget that this is not fiction. I look forward to reading more of her work including her historical fiction. Michael Schaara's "Killer Angels" comes to mind. The events can be real and dialogue can even be taken from primary source, but there is a line where an honest historian can decide to write from his or her own point of view and personal understanding without qualification in a literary style rather than as a scholar. The style of Weir's writing here is just to the history side of the line. I understand that other works of hers are fiction, though I imagine them, as with Schaara, fictionalized history rather than fiction in a historical setting.Excellent book, I highly recommend. A must for Tutor enthusiasts. By the way - this covers Henry VIII through Jane Seymour and then the lives of Edward, Mary, Jane Grey (though she is not Henry's child) and Elizabeth until Elizabeth takes the thrown. The coverage of Elizabeth's life is equal in the time frame, but the time frame ends with the death of Mary. Just a brief epilogue foreshadows the actual reign of Elizabeth.

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