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

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.


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!


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.

C.S. Burrough

As a big Alison Weir reader I had reservations about her cramming in so many characters here compared to her other biographies which I love for their fleshing out and generosity of detail. Having read more than one full length biography on each of Henry VIII's children I anticipated this to be necessarily condensed.I was wrong.This more than adequately covers each subject without sacrificing that fine Weir standard. These are sumptuously drawn profiles of some of history's most intriguing royals, all sharing a father, each bearing the grand hallmark of a different mother, each mother's fate distinctly unfortunate.Without these heirs to the throne being the characters they were, with such individualised beliefs, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and limitations, history could and perhaps would have unfolded differently for the English speaking world.Alison Weir is among a handful of the world's best at what she does. She escorts the non-academic reader into the backgrounds, mindsets, motives, strengths, shortcomings, obstacles and dilemmas of these iconic personas. All without forgoing the quality and standards such books require to work as they do. We are left entertained, informed but hungry for more of the genre.Another fine accomplishment from an erudite and readable historical biographer.

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.

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.


** spoiler alert ** I'm copying this from other posts I made on the Tudor group but thought I'd share here, as well. July 15/09"I'm really enjoying learning more about Jane in The Children of England, also by AW. Thought I'd share a little for anyone who, like me, doesn't know much about her. The first part of the book takes place directly after the death of Henry VIII and goes into a lot of detail regarding Jane's feelings toward her parents and her preference to learning above all else, as learning was the only thing she could do safely, without fear of punishment. It also speaks of her betrothal to Lord Hertford being broken in favor of her parents' desire for higher position, as well as to fit the Duke of Northumberland's schemes to raise his family's stature by marry his own son, Guilford Dudley (younger brother of Robert) to Jane. AW states that Jane would have preferred to never marry at all but accepted that marriage was a part of her role as an one in line to inherit the throne. She did, however, 'hate the Dudleys' and refused to marry Guilford on the grounds of her previous betrothal. Her parents finally won that argument when they flogged Jane into submission. When reading about Jane, you can't help but feel for the sweet girl who would have preferred to sit with a book than sit on a throne. She was incredibly Protestant and very intelligent. It would have been interesting to see what sort of Queen she would have made or what sort of life she would have lived had she been able to follow through on either of these paths. The second part of the book focuses on Jane and Mary after the death of Edward VI. I'll be reading that in about 10 pages or so. I'll write more when I learn it. I highly recommend reading the book :) July 17, 2009 From what I've just finished reading, Edward's Lord Protector at the time of this death was the Duke of Northumberland, who was Robert Dudley's father. He overthrew Edward's uncle, Lord Somerset (Edward Seymour - Jane Seymour's brother) and took total control of the ruling. Northumberland convinced Edward to change the line of succession set forth in Henry VIII's will to skip over Mary, Elizabeth and Frances Brandon (Henry's niece by his sister Mary), which was illegal and traitorous to defy. However, Northumberland had so much power that the other advisors felt that they could not go against him for fear of their lives. The doctors all deemed that nothing could be done for Edward, who was incredibly sick at the end. He was coughing up blood, he had boils, ulcers and bedsores (to name a few) and could barely get out of bed, write letters or even speak. Northumberland was not yet prepared to let him die. He needed more time to set affairs into order in a way that would benefit him (by getting Jane on the throne, who was married to his youngest son, Guilford Dudley). Northumberland hired what AW calls a female 'quack' - a woman who fed aresenic to Edward, which apparently prolonged his life though to great suffering on Edward's part. When the new line of succession was agreed upon (unwillingly) and sworn to by all advisors in front of Edward himself, Northumberland no longer had a need to keep him alive and got rid of the 'quack', ending the poisoning. Interestingly, this woman was never seen or heard from again and some think that she was murdered. I have no doubt that Northumberland would not be above getting rid of a woman who helped him to poison a King! Anyway, Edward, pre-illness, was really trying to participate and "do" more by way of ruling. He attempted to emmulate his father in all ways. If you look at pictures of him, he even stands like Henry did, feet apart and hands on hips. He wasn't as athletic as Henry but enjoyed watching sport and loves the masques, etc. When his uncle was Lord Protector he did not let Edward take part in many decisions. This led Edward to hate his uncle. Northumberland was smart even to realize that he needed to at least make Edward believe that decisions were his to make but was also smart enough to know how to make Edward's decisions mirror his own. July 22/09 Mary, for all of her good qualities, of which she apparently possessed many, was a brutal queen, relentless in her persecution of the Protestant heretics. She was very much a maternal figure. She acted as mother to Elizabeth at a young age and wanted nothing more than to be a mother and provide a son for Phillip and for England. Obviously, this was not destined to happen. Mary was older when she married Phillip and probably in the beginning stages of menopause. She probably suffered from what is known as a phantom pregnancy; wanting so badly to be pregnant that she convinced herself and her body that she was. The worst part of this section of the book was reading about the burnings. So many men and women died as a result of heresy. During Mary's 'pregnancy', she convinced herself that in order to safely deliver a child, she must first rid England of all the heretics and she increased the persecution at this time. One woman was burned when she was 8 months pregnant. While burning, she delivered the baby. The executioner picked up the baby and threw it back in the fire! I can't imagine what it must have been like to have lived during a time like this, always in fear of your life and the lives of your friends and family.


Alison Weir always delivers, and it's a pleasure to have one of her books in my greedy-for-more-history hands. Here, she focuses on Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Edward VI, the Tudor Children. She paints the picture of papa Henry and how his lust for power, and women, led him to be father to three different children from three different mothers.There is even a biographical portrait of Lady Jane Grey, the unfortunate girl caught between avaricious parents and power-hungry opponents. Believe me, you will not want to put the book down, as you flow from Henry's death through physically weak Edward, then through Bloody Mary's reign, and then to Elizabeth's ascension and the beginning of the global empire for England.It always amazes me that so small an island can have produced such magnificent historical figures. Get your Tudor groove on with this great read.Book Season = Summer

Janastasia Whydra

I think the United States public school history lesson can be summed up as: Britain was our enemy during the American Revolutionary War, the British Empire during Queen Victoria's reign, and Britain was our ally during World War II. When it comes to European history, American education is lacking... then again, it is lacking in regards to the history of the United States as well. So, reading Alison Weir's The Children of Henry VIII was not only educational and enlightening, but also entertaining with humor and drama among the three children of the late King Henry VIII. Although the focus on this book, in my opinion was dominated by Mary- the eldest who would later be nicknamed as 'Bloody Mary'-, Edward VI- the youngest and first heir to the throne-, and Elizabeth- the popular Queen from Shakespeare time according to our English high school teachers. Weir also discusses the short rein of Queen Jane, which was in between Edward and Mary, but I was more interested in the political sibling rivalry.What I think was most impressive about this book if Weir's ability to make her historical figures come to life. Instead of just reading about their lives, I could actually imagine what they may have been like. Edward the young and impressionable with the "I-already-know-everything-about-anything-that-is-worth-knowing-about" attitude of teenagers. Mary the conservative and pious matron who longed to be a mother. And Elizabeth, a young liberal-minded (for her time) woman who is conscious of how she is perceived by others and is careful about how she is making waves, but none-the-less is still making changes that will affect generations for years to come. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about history, politics, royalty/nobility or is looking for a unique perspective on sibling rivalry.


this reads too much like a text book from school and not really my type of enjoyable reading.

Erin Germain

Virtually everyone knows about Elizabeth I and her long reign. Many have heard of Mary I ("Bloody Mary"), who ruled before her. But how many know about Edward VI or the Nine-Day Queen, Lady Jane Grey? These were the children (and great-niece, in the case of Jane Grey) of Henry VIII. The book begins with Henry's death and the Council who ruled in the young Edward's name, his assertion for power, and the political and religious wrangling that happened after his early death. It provided a nice map of the political scene of the time, in terms that were easy for the average reader to understand. It also gives some insight into what life was like for Mary and Elizabeth, both declared illegitimate, yet put back into the line of succession (Henry was nothing if not a master at adapting the law to his purpose) after their younger brother. It then goes through the extremely short reign of Queen Jane, Mary's tenure on the throne, and ends with Elizabeth about to take the throne. There are also some very nice photos, albeit in black and white, of the four heirs, political figures who surrounded them, and homes which were important to them. Despite the subjects being gone for 450 years, it is not at all dry and was very entertaining.


For all his worry about heirs, he spawned three drastically different Monarchs, one a puppet, one infamous for religious fanaticism and murder and one celebrated as the greatest Monarch in English history. I knew of their adult lives, but reading this really put the pieces together for me and I saw how their childhoods dictated their future actions. I thought it was a fascinating peek inside, so to speak.


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.

Theresa Sivelle

Okay, so I just can not finish this book. It seems to go on and on and I just couldn't get attached to any of the characters. Maybe more of an educational type book than an enjoyable reading thing. I'm going to move on to different book for another one of my book clubs.


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.

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